Everything You've Always Wanted To Know About Visually Impaired Classification

Everything You've Always Wanted To Know About Visually Impaired Classification

Did you know Paralympic athletes get tested on how blind they are?
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I am currently sitting on a plane traveling from Hanover à the Netherlands for the weekend. I left today (Saturday) and will be back on campus on Monday afternoon just in time to start studying for my finals. I know this sounds irrational and you’re right, it is. but if I don’t go on this trip I can’t ski this season, because every Paralympic athlete needs to get something called a classification. Classifying is a way of basically ranking every disability to make varying degrees of these disabilities comparable. Classification is the reason I (someone who is legally blind but can see some things) can ski against someone who is totally blind and it can be deemed fair. Essentially I am flying to the Netherlands so that I can be reassured for the 10,000th time that yes, indeed, I am still blind and no my vision has not gotten better or worse in the last three years. However, unlike myself, many of my competitors do have degenerative vision lose. For them, classification is incredibly important because their vision gets worse over time, and therefore their classification can often change.

Visually impaired classification is broken down into three categories; B1, B2, and B3. B1 athletes are totally blind and compete wearing completely blacked out goggles. B2 skiers are slightly more sighted than B1 athletes, and B3 skiers are the most sighted of the visually impaired athletes. Each division has different factors, which basically refers to a percent of the actual time it takes the athlete to ski the race. B1 athletes who have the least amount of vision might, for example, have a factor of 0.55 for some races, meaning only 55% of that athlete’s raw time is considered. On the other hand, a B3 may have a factor of around 0.85 meaning 85% of that athlete’s time is considered. The difference in factors is what makes the times between the two athletes comparable and ideally competitive.

Visually impaired classification can get a bit controversial because, unlike some of the other disabilities, eye sight isn’t quite as straight forward. For instance, it’s pretty easy to look at an amputee and know whether he is missing his leg above or below the knee. It is a little more difficult to evaluate someone who is legally blind and determine just how much that person can actually see. Vision conditions are so diverse but in order for classification to work an arbitrary line must be drawn to categorize visual impairments. Consequently, it is impossible to make everyone happy even though the system is designed to help.

There are plenty of athletes, including myself that fall unfortunately close to that arbitrary cut off line between classes. There are a wide range of vision disorders in each category, and while being at the lower end of one may be portrayed as a disadvantage, I like to think of it as a challenge to be the best athlete I can be. Classification is something every Paralympic athlete knows well, and while it will never be perfect, it is necessary and a crucial part of Paralympic sport.

Cover Image Credit: youtube.com

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20 Signs You Were A High School Cheerleader

You got really tired of hearing, "Point your toes."
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Cheerleading is something you'll never forget. It takes hard work, dedication, and comes with its ups and downs. Here are some statements that every cheerleader, past and present, know to be true.

1. You always had bobby pins with you.

2. Fear shot through you if you couldn't find your spankees right away and thought you left them at home.

3. You accumulated about 90 new pairs of tennis shoes...

4. ...and about 90 new bows, bags, socks, and warm ups.

5. When you hear certain songs from old cheer dance mixes it either ruins your day or brings back happy memories.

6. And chances are, you still remember every move to those dances.

7. Sometimes you catch yourself standing with your hands on your hips.

8. You know the phrase, "One more time, ladies" all too well.

9. The hospitality rooms were always one of the biggest perks of going to tournaments (at least for me).

10. You got really tired of hearing, "Point your toes."

SEE ALSO: How The Term 'Cheerlebrity' Destroyed Our Sport

11. If you left the gym at half-time to go get something, you better be back by the time the boys run back out.

12. You knew how awkward it could be on the bus rides home after the boys lost.

13. But you also knew how fun it could be if they won.

14. Figuring out line-up was extremely important – especially if one of your members was gone.

15. New uniforms were so exciting; minus the fact that they cost a fortune.

16. You know there was nothing worse than when you called out an offense cheer but halfway through, you had to switch to the defense version because someone turned over the ball.

17. You still know the school fight song by heart and every move that goes with it.

SEE ALSO: Signs You Suffer From Post-Cheerleading Depression

18. UCA Cheer Camp cheers and chants still haunt you to this day.

19. You know the difference between a clasp and a clap. Yes, they're different.

20. There's always a part of you that will miss cheering and it will always have a place in your heart.

Cover Image Credit: Doug Pool / Facebook

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Maybe We're Not So Different From Each Other After All

Or, how my trip to Haiti brought to life a truth I've always known.

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Until the end of my senior year of high school, I had never traveled outside the United States (unless you count briefly crossing the Canadian border as a baby – I don't). My first (real) experience in a foreign country didn't come until I was 17, when I went on a short-term mission trip to Haiti, near the capital city of Port-au-Prince.

As cliché as it may sound, this trip was an eye-opener, to say the least. It was nothing like I had ever experienced before – and, unless I one day go back (which I hope to), it's something I'll never experience the likes of again as long as I'm in the States.

My time in Haiti was both shocking and saddening for all of the typical reasons – in short, because it is absolutely nothing like the United States. The beautiful people of this country are extremely impoverished – in fact, Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Even Haitians who are considered wealthy in their country live in poverty by American standards. All of the poverty in the United States doesn't hold a candle to what exists in Haiti.

Everywhere my church group went, we encountered dismal living conditions, underfed and under-clothed people (children and adults alike), animals running free down crowded streets, and trash and sewage festering in the blistering heat. Not only are the roads unpaved and full of potholes, but there are also no traffic rules whatsoever. Drivers race as fast as they can down streets full of pedestrians, weaving in and out of traffic with no regard for lanes or sides of the road. It is pure insanity. And unlike in the United States, where you can usually walk down the street or simply out of your house feeling relatively safe (unless you're in a seedy area), almost no place feels safe in Haiti. We had a guard with us constantly, both on the road and in the compound that we stayed at.

The saddest part about Haiti is that there are so few people to help the oppressed. Indeed, missionaries (both short-term and long-term) do all they can to help as many people as possible. But in the end, they can only do so much – and so many are left unreached. Sadly, the people of this country are susceptible to diseases, natural disasters, and corrupt police and government officials. They barely have the means to help themselves, let alone their fellow countrymen. It was both beautiful and heart-breaking to see how excited many Haitians were to see our group of Americans, for they knew that we could help them and bring them hope – something they so desperately need.

Because of these experiences, it was easy for me to see the world of difference between Haiti and the United States (and most Western countries in general). But the thing that amazed me the most was just how similar we also are. Yes, Americans and Haitians find themselves in vastly different circumstances, but we are all the same at heart.

As an example of this, we once ministered to several precious children and teenagers at a Vacation Bible School in a local village. While we were there, we asked the kids if they wanted their pictures taken – and they loved it. Amazingly, they all posed for pictures as if they were celebrities at a professional photo shoot, or teenagers snapping pictures for Instagram. They flashed peace signs at the camera and tried a variety of poses, always thrilled to see the final product.

At that moment, they didn't seem like poor, malnourished children in a third world country. They acted exactly like so many people in America do, and they showed the same desire to pose and primp themselves and look cool. There was nothing pretentious about their actions – it was truly precious to witness. At that moment, I was blown away by how they seemed exactly like the people I knew from home. Of course, I have always firmly believed and known that people are the same regardless of race or circumstance, but this experience was a wonderful example of this in action – and it is truly one of my favorite memories from the entire trip.

Of course, not all of the similarities between Haiti and the United States are as heartwarming as this example. While Roman Catholicism is prevalent in Haiti and is the official religion, voodoo is heavily practiced and infiltrates even Christian homes and hearts. Darkness and light battle for control of souls in this country, just as they do in the United States – a country founded on Judeo-Christian principles and still considered a Christian nation in many ways, but falling farther and farther away from God and into unbiblical values and practices. In both countries, the Devil seeks to challenge God's authority in the hearts and lives of all people.

So in short, yes, there is a world of difference between Haiti and the United States – if you only consider outward appearances. However, at the core, the Haitians are our brothers and sisters, and they experience all of the same emotions as we do, from joy to heartbreak. Our souls are the same also – we are all susceptible to evil, yet there is also hope for redemption. This is something I've always known to be true – that we're all the same deep down – but my trip to Haiti helped this truth hit close to home. It has engraved itself on my heart and soul, and I can never forget.

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