Disability USA Swimming encourages people with disabilities to participate in the sport of swimming and facilitates their inclusion in USA Swimming programs through education and collaboration. We seek to involve people with disabilities in existing competitions and programs for all swimmers, rather than provide unique disability-only opportunities. 


Tools for Athletes and Families

Registration as a USA Swimming athlete member is the first step! Contact your local head coach or club registrar to get registered. Iowa Clubs & Contacts

Outrach Membership - Athletes with a disability are eligible for Outreach Membership ($5 registration, $5 per meet). To register as an Outreach member:

  • Complete the 2022 Athlete Registration Application (select Outreach).
  • Athletes who have a disability are eligible for Outreach membership. Proof of disability will not be required. However, please "Check the Box" to indicate the athlete's disability at the time of registration (blind, deaf, physical, cognitive). Identifying your athlete's disability (and ethnicity) helps us identify our true demographic and who we serve. It will also help you to stay informed of opportunities for athletes like yours!
  • Send the registration to your club regsitrar, and submit payment to your club. 
  • To learn more about Outreach membership in Iowa, please read the Outreach FAQ.
  • Questions about Outreach Registration? Contact the IASI Registration Coordinator.

Max Heiar, member of  Team Iowa at 2021 Central Zones Championships

Competition Opportunities for Swimmers with Disabilities

Swimmers with disabilities are welcome in USA Swimming meets. Competition provides the swimmer with opportunities to assess progress toward goals, receive coaching and officiating in a meet environment, and socialize with friends.

Age-group competition - In an age-group meet, swimmers are classified by age (e.g. 10 & under, 11-12, 13-14, 15-16, and 17-18), gender (male, female), and skill level (e.g. AA, A, B time standards). Most age group meets do not require a time standard to enter, so there is a place in non-championship age-group competition for every young swimmer, including those who have disabilities. Iowa also offers annual short course and long course age-group championships. The highest level of age-group competition in the midwest is the Central Zone Championships, and there are opportunities there for participation by swimmers with disabilities!

  • Qualifying for Iowa Swimming Championship Meets as a Disability Athlete - The IASI Technical Plannning Committee is currently working on this. More information coming soon!
  • Qualifying for Central Zones and Sectional Meets as an Iowa Swimming Disability Athlete​ - For 14 & Under Central Zone Championships (held each August), each LSC may enter six (6) swimmers age 14 and Under with a disability in any manner deemed appropriate who are not required to have achieved the qualifying time standards for their age group/events, but must have an official time in any event entered.

Senior competition - As swimmers become older, faster, and more serious about the sport, they progress to senior meets. Separate events are conducted for males and females at the meets, but there are no age groups. Time standards specify the minimum qualifications for participation. In most parts of the country accommodations are made to allow skilled swimmers with disabilities to enter senior meets regardless of ability to achieve the time standards. Most LSCs, including Iowa Swimming, offer annual short course and long course senior championships. The next steps in the ladder are sectional meets, then national championships, then international competition. The pinnacle of senior level swimming is the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games.

  • Sectional Para Motivational Times - Athletes with a disability who achieve a Sectional Para Motivational Time qualify to enter Sectional meets. For the schedule of upcoming Sectional meets, visit the USA Swimming website Event Page.
Open-water swimming - Open-water competitions are held in lakes, rivers, and oceans. Senior-level events typically include the 5K, 10K, 15K, and 25K distances. Age-group open-water events often focus on shorter distances. Some swimmers with disabilities, especially those with limited use of the lower body, prefer open-water races because there are no turns.
Disability-Only Competitions -   U.S. Paralympics collaborates with Swimming Canada to offer at least two disability-specific   competitions in North America each year. In addition, the disability sports organizations included   in the Additional Resources section of this web page offer their own competitions. For example, Adaptive Sports   USA offers an annual junior national championships, and the Dwarf Athletic Association   conducts an annual swimming competition at its National Games. Interested swimmers should   request details from the organization that hosts the competition.

Tools for Clubs and Coaches

Coaches are the most important ingredient for the successful inclusion of swimmers with a disability. You are the face of USA Swimming with respect to welcoming and accepting the swimmer to the sport, and you encourage the swimmer to achieve a healthy lifestyle and competitive success through your efforts on the pool deck.
Many swimmers with a disability choose to participate in both inclusive (USA Swimming) and disability-specific (e.g., Paralympics, Deaflympics, Special Olympics) programs. Refer to the links under the Additional Disability Resources section on this page to learn more about disability-specific competitions. The US Paralympics swimming page also includes information for coaches, such as eligibility criteria for trip  lists to coach at international swimming meets. 
Contact Randy Julian with your ideas and concerns related to inclusion in USA Swimming programs. We want to benefit from your expertise!

Coaches - Guiding a Swimmer with a Disability

Best Practices for Safe Sport with Athletes with Disabilities

Meet Entry - Information Form for Adapted Competitive Swimmers - include when submitting meet entries.

APT Requirments for Adult Athletes with Cognitive Disabilities

Officials - Officiating Swimmers with Disabilities - Officiating guidelines for swimmers with a disability as published in Article 105 of the USA Swimming rule book.

Aquatics for Children with Challenges

  • Interested in education to support children with special needs in your programs? The Aquatics for Children With Challenges online course is targeted towards Aquatics Management personnel and Swim Coaches, providing ground-breaking training and information to help you and your staff achieve your program goals. For more information on Children With Challenges course options, or for technical support with the course, please email Sara at [email protected].

Everyone in the Pool - slideshow presentation from the Central Zone discussing disability swimming at the club, LSC, and Zone levels, parallel competition, para motivational time standards, and officiating protocols for swimmers with a disability.