Russia's Valeriia Shabalina poses on the podium with her gold medal at Paris 2018
An intellectual impairment is caused by the way the brain develops either before birth or in early childhood. It is a lifelong impairment and usually has a significant impact on a person’s life. Sometimes it is caused by a genetic or inherited condition, by complications during pregnancy or childbirth, or by a childhood illness. Often though, the cause is not known.

An intellectual impairment is not a mental illness, and should not be confused with conditions such as dyslexia or mental health.

People with an intellectual impairment find it harder than others to learn, understand and communicate. Many will find it hard to find a sports club, to enjoy organised sport or to find a coach who understand their support needs. Too often, sports organisations are simply not accessible, and do not encourage people with an intellectual impairment to get involved.

We believe that, with the right support and coaching, athletes can achieve their potential. Virtus: World Intellectual Impairment Sport challenges attitudes by providing an opportunity to perform and to be successful.

We create role models for other people follow and we support champions. For the very best, Virtus: World Intellectual Impairment Sport provides an opportunity to compete at an international level, including the Paralympic Games.

For further information about eligibility and classification, please visit the about intellectual impairment and about other eligible groups pages.

Guide to classification in para sport

With support from the British Psychological Society, Virtus: World Intellectual Impairment Sport has developed a series of educational resources to help understanding of the process of athlete classification.

Paralympic classification of elite athletes with intellectual Impairments
This short video will tell you the inspiring story of how athletes with intellectual disabilities have re-joined the Paralympics for London 2012. You will hear from athletes, the British Head Coach and Team Manager, the Chief Executive of the UK Sports Association and the Head of Eligibility for Virtus: World Intellectual Impairment Sport. They discuss what is involved to become eligible to compete on this world stage, and the anticipated legacies of London 2012 for athletes with intellectual impairments.

Psychology and the Paralympics

This short film examines the role of the classifier for athletes with intellectual impairments. Jennifer Maris is a trainee clinical psychologist and she recently volunteered to use her psychological skills to help the classification process. Here she describes what this means, what’s involved and the exciting opportunities and challenges this has opened up for her.


Introduction to eligibility and classification

This presentation discusses the primary eligibility process and sports classification for athletes with an intellectual disability

The sports classification cognitive test

This presentation talks in more detail about the computer tests used as part of the classification process.