• University provides Classification Services for Athletes in IBSA world Games
    Goalball (credit: Goalball UK)

Research News

University provides Classification Services for Athletes in IBSA world Games

Aug 10 2023

Aston University’s School of Optometry providing athlete classification services for the 2023 International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) World Games in Birmingham.

The IBSA World Games – the lead sponsor of which is UK sight loss charity RNIB - will take place from 18-27 August 2023. 1,150 athletes from 70 countries will compete in the World Games, alongside 800 athlete supporters. Organisers have recruited 200 technical officers and 400 volunteers to ensure the smooth running of the games. It is the biggest gathering of blind and partially sighted competitors ever seen in the UK. There are 10 sports at the IBSA World Games – archery, chess, cricket, football, goalball, para judo, powerlifting, showdown (similar to table tennis), ten pin bowling and tennis. Many of the sports have been specially adapted, for example adding ball bearings to the tennis balls, so competitors can hear where they bounce.

Athletes at the IBSA World Games compete in different categories depending on their level of vision, to ensure the competition is fair. Classifications range from B1 to B3, with B1 being unable to see a hand in front of your face and B3 being at best only able to see the top letter on a standard optometrist’s chart. The School of Optometry is led by Professor James Wolffsohn. Staff from the school will support the testing of athletes to determine their visual acuity level and restrictions to their field of vision, to facilitate accurate classification. The process will make use of the school’s advanced facilities.

It is not the first time that Aston University’s School of Optometry staff have offered their clinical expertise in high profile sporting events – the school also offered vision care at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games’ medical centres in 2022. The school’s learning environment integrates scientific, clinical and professional aspects and its optometry degree is one of the oldest in the world. In addition to teaching students, the school offers continuing professional development courses and conducts internationally leading ophthalmic research. The onsite Aston Eye Clinic which offers standard and specialist clinical services to the general public, where students can gain hands-on experience, is one of the largest at any UK university, completing more than 6,000 patient episodes every year.

The IBSA World Games is the first major sporting event to be held in Birmingham since the 2022 Commonwealth Games and will use some of the same facilities. The World Games take place every four years and were first hosted in Madrid, Spain, in 1998. Since these inaugural games, the event has been hosted by Quebec, Canada (2003) Sao Paulo, Brazil (2007), Antalya, Turkey (2011), Seoul, South Korea (2015) and Fort Wayne, US (2019).

Professor Wolffsohn said:

“We are delighted to be able to support IBSA in bringing these games to Birmingham. While visual loss is devastating to individuals, it is inspirational to see people who don’t allow this to limit their achievements.”

Optometry Professor Joy Myint from Cardiff University and ophthalmologist Dr Claire Morton have been helping IBSA to co-ordinate the classification, which involves a team of international classifiers from all over the world.

Professor Myint said:

“Classification is the cornerstone of the Paralympic movement. It determines which athletes are eligible to compete in a sport and how athletes are grouped together for competition.  Athletes undergo a series of clinically focussed tests to ensure they are eligible. Tests including assessment of visual fields and visual acuity determine the sport class. We are delighted that Aston University’s Department of Optometry have allowed us to use their excellent first-class equipment and facilities. This ensures that the IBSA expert classifiers can conduct classification in a standardised environment.”

Dr Morton added:

“Verifying the classification of each IBSA World Games athlete is an important and challenging process, so we are extremely grateful to have had access to excellent facilities on the doorstep of the tournament.

“We wish all the very best to the athletes competing and hope they can inspire others with sight loss to give sport a go.”

More information online

2023 IBSA Games more information online

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