WOWSA Inclusion and Diversity Committee - Board Meeting Minutes: Key Takeaways

WOWSA Inclusion and Diversity Committee – Board Meeting Minutes: Key Takeaways

Introduction and Agenda:

  • The meeting began with an expression of gratitude for everyone’s attendance.
  • The importance of the discussed topics was emphasized.
  • An agenda was presented to guide the meeting’s discussions.

Topic 1: Rules and Regulations:

A meeting is scheduled with the rules and regulations committee on October 2nd. The main focus will be on clarifying guidelines around assisted and unassisted swims.


  • How to solidify exceptions for swimmers with disabilities or impairments.
  • Considerations on handling records for these categories:
  • Whether to classify records separately or differently.
  • The possibility of denoting specific details in the official record database.

Rules for Disabled Swimmers:

  • It was highlighted that current rules lack a separate section for disabled swimmers.
  • Some rules, especially for unassisted swims, may be restrictive for those with disabilities or impairments.

Handling Records for Disabled Swimmers:

Proposals include having separate record categories, unified records with annotations, classification-based records, educational efforts, and organizing inclusive events.

  • Julie Ridge: Brought attention to the challenges faced by disabled swimmers in adhering to certain rules.
  • Jonty Warneken: Compared the challenges faced by a quad amputee with his own experience in the North Channel, suggesting that the former’s swim might be more challenging.
  • James Pittar: James raised a question about determining what constitutes an assisted swim, using the example of a swimmer using special earpieces for the visually impaired.


James Pittar: ”I think reviewing the rules is good. I think also what Quinn sort of touched upon there in that looking at each sort of individual swim and their own specific disability in relation to that swim. Whatever the disability might be, I think it’s quite a good thing that we can look at each individual swim and go, you know, they’ve done that swim, but they needed this. We take the example of having someone swim next to someone the whole way because that’s there as a guide, not as an assistance. I think reviewing some of the rules, but I think also looking at each person’s individual disability and looking upon the way they’ve done that swim, whatever the swim might be.”

Jonty Warneken: “I think, you know, my feelings are do anything you like to get to the water and into it is fine. And then what goes on in the water is the bit that is clarifying. And just going back to someone’s comment about, you know, the Paralympics and length of stumps and breakages, you know, when I when I ski and I’ve skied with the national teams in Colorado many a time and they, you know, the classification for them because not to be smutty, but inches matter, you know, my mates who got a below knee left leg amputation because he got shot in the ankle in Afghanistan has got a longer stump and he finds life a lot easier than me because I’ve got a short stump.

So it’s one of those things that you sort of know, there’s never going to be a perfect solution. So. At some point, I do think we are just going to need to bring everything in. And that’s why I go back to what World Aquatics has done quite a bit, as a good starting point to say, okay, this is where we’ll start from.

And I think Quinn’s suggestion, if a swimmer wants to go and do something off the wall and, and there’s something I was actually going to message Quinn about in a few weeks to say, look, This is what I want to do. This is how I’m going to do it. Will you approve that as a swim?

And this is the equipment that I’m going to use to get in and out of the water. To me, that whole. You know, that transparency of this is how I do this stuff because of my disabilities. Are you good with that? And then it gets sort of signed off. And I think that is that interaction, not only does it give confidence to swimmers, but it enables us to grow and to learn and to understand what matters to each individual swimmer with each individual type of disability.

So having that sort of two-way referral approval. To me, it’s something that we need to build into WOWSA. If it’s not already there.”

Christine Coppola: “I really like what Jonty just said, “Should inclusion be first and give people universal access.

And the only way to really do that, given the myriad of different things that people could be experiencing is to kind of #1, learn from, like, James said, what people have done, how have they done the swims and then what Jonty said, the transparency is  our two-way dialogue.

Like, this is what I plan on doing. This is what I need. Is this something that you would be okay with?”

Julie Ridge: “There are disabilities that are sometimes neurological, and they change from day to day. There are good days and there are bad days. So, using water words, transparency, and fluidity, I think things do need to be evaluated on a case by case as they come up. Under the parameters that Quinn has spoken about because each individual organization has their own rules and regulations. So, if it’s part of them, then they’re going to set up their rules and regulations.

So when it comes to having a swim coming to us for ratification, we are looking for rules that are fair and inclusive and transparent. This needs to be a fluid process and it does need to be looked at day to day. I mean, I can think of,  I have a hidden disability myself, mine is bipolar and I have very good days and I have extremely horrible days.

And I do think that we can’t even say when I plan to do it or a month ahead, these are my parameters because they may not be the parameters when I set out in the water. I agree with everything everyone else said.”

Topic 2: Cyber Bullying:

The issue of cyberbullying was revisited, having been raised in a previous meeting.

Discussions centered on:

  • Creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for all swimmers.
  • Strategies to prevent and combat cyberbullying within the community.


Protection from Bullying: The conversation shifts to how certain organizations protect their members from bullying. It’s noted that swimmers affiliated with recognized governing bodies are less likely to face bullying.

Code of Conduct: The idea of revising or establishing a code of conduct is brought up multiple times. This could serve as a guideline for behavior within the community and provide a framework for addressing issues.

Topic 3: Sport Growth and Evolution:

Topics discussed:

Individualized Disabilities: Every disability is unique, and it’s essential to consider them individually. Implementing blanket rules for all bodies of water is challenging due to the diverse nature of disabilities and the varied conditions of water bodies.

Paralympics Classification: The Paralympics has specific categories based on the nature and extent of disabilities. The classification is intricate, considering factors like the location of a break in the spine or the length of a limb.

Inclusive Approach: Evaluate swims on a case-by-case basis.

Meeting Takeaways:

Individualized Disabilities: The unique nature of each disability necessitates individualized rules and considerations.

Paralympics Classification: The Paralympics’ intricate classification system might offer insights for swimming classifications.

Inclusive Approach: The ideal approach is to allow everyone to participate and then evaluate swims individually.

Cyberbullying Concerns: Addressing and combating cyberbullying

Need for Clarity: Clearer guidelines can help reduce ambiguities and potential negative interpretations.

Code of Conduct: A code of conduct can guide behavior within the community and address issues like bullying.

Gender and Disability Bias: Addressing biases faced by disabled swimmers.

Knowledge Base Creation: The need for a comprehensive knowledge base for those with disabilities

Equipment Recommendations:Suggestions were made for equipment that could assist disabled swimmers.

Addressing Cultural Barriers:Efforts should be made to support swim groups reaching out to underrepresented communities.

Monetary Considerations:The financial challenges faced by disabled individuals in the UK were highlighted, emphasizing the need for more inclusive pricing in swim events.

Text on Slide

Separate Record Categories:

Most organizations maintain separate record categories for disabled and non-disabled swimmers.

This ensures that achievements of both groups are recognized and celebrated without direct comparison.

Unified Records with Annotations:

Some organizations might have a unified record board but annotate records set by disabled swimmers with a specific symbol or note.

This approach acknowledges the achievement within the broader context of the sport while also highlighting the specific circumstances.

Classification-Based Records:

Within the category of disabled swimmers, records are often further divided based on the classification system.

This ensures that swimmers are compared to others with similar levels of ability, making the records more meaningful.

Regular Review of Classification System:

As understanding of disabilities and their impact on performance evolves, organizations periodically review and update the classification system.

This ensures that the system remains fair and relevant.

Educational Efforts:

Organizations often engage in educational efforts to inform the broader community about the achievements of disabled swimmers.

This helps in fostering respect and understanding for the records set by these swimmers.

Inclusive Events:

Some events might be designed to be inclusive, where disabled and non-disabled swimmers compete together.

In such cases, records might be annotated to indicate the inclusive nature of the event.