This week, deaf-blind Paralympic swimmer and three-time gold medalist Becca Meyers announced that she is withdrawing from the 2021 Tokyo Games because she was denied accommodations for her disability. In a powerful USA Today op-ed, Meyers explains why she had no choice but to drop out of the competition. “If I don’t have someone I can trust, how can I trust that I will be safe?” she asks. Her story shines a bright light on systemic ableism in the Paralympics and the essential role of personal care assistants in the lives of people with disabilities.
Systemic Ableism? ! ? At a Paralympics?
After a traumatic experience at the 2016 Rio Paralympics, Meyers asserted her right to disability accommodations and reached an understanding with the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) that a personal care assistant — her mother — could accompany her to all international competitions. However, the USOPC is now denying her this right, stating that only “essential operational personnel” are allowed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
And how is that not ESSENTIAL?
The USOPC’s implementation of COVID safety protocols is deeply hypocritical and ableist. PCAs, who are healthcare workers, have been deemed “non-essential” by the USOPC, yet other support workers, including personal golf caddies and horse groomers, are allowed to accompany their athletes. So each golfer gets their own assistant and each horse gets its own caregiver, but a Paralympian who needs help finding food at the cafeteria or putting on their prosthetic limb or taking a shower has to wait in line as 1 of 33.
1 of 33?
The USOPC is claiming that they are meeting the needs of the Paralympic swim team by providing one PCA on-call for all 33 athletes, but that is absurd. One person cannot possibly have the training, let alone the time, to support 33 people with a diverse range of disabilities.
These officials are clearly morons!
At the 2021 Tokyo Games, horses get an assistant but disabled athletes don’t.
They are making a clear statement: horses are worth more to them than a disabled athlete. An animal is to be treated more humanly than an actual human being!
Paralympic athletes who have rightfully earned their place at the 2021 Tokyo Games are being expected to maintain the physical and mental focus required to compete for the highest honors in their sport while being denied essential health care. This is completely unacceptable. As Meyers says in a Washington Post interview, “We’ve broken barriers in society, defying all odds. And yet this is how we’re treated? Like a burden on the team?” By refusing to provide Meyers and her fellow Paralympians with the support they need, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee has demonstrated that it does not value its disabled athletes. The Paralympics should be a source of national pride, but the committee’s behavior is shameful. Our country and its disabled athletes deserve better.
When you have so many people who actively HATE their country, why should that toxic ideology not effect those officials in the USOPC.