Becca Meyers, a 26-year-old swimmer who was born deaf, has just been told she can’t bring her care assistant to the Tokyo Games. As a result, she has had to withdraw from the competition.
Becca’s deafness is a result of Usher syndrome, a rare genetic condition. It has also caused her to slowly lose her sight. A care assistant is not simply helpful for her, it’s a necessity. She says that announcing she is not able compete has been gut-wrenching, but that she didn’t have a choice.
Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Becca has been swimming since she was six years old. She explains that she feels free in the water. It’s also something that she can do more easily than other sports with her Usher syndrome diagnosis.
She played soccer as well as a child, but her deafness made it hard to hear the referee, and losing her sight made it more and more difficult to see the ball. The sport became dangerous for her.
Becca has medaled at the Paralympic Games for swimming 6 times. In 2012, when she was just 17, she won 2 silver medals and 1 bronze medal at the London Games. In the Rio Olympic Games in 2016 she won 3 gold medals and 1 silver. This has made her a world-ranking competitor. To this day, in the 400-meter freestyle, she holds the number one spot.
Her care assistant has been by her side through all of these victories. Since 2017, her mother has served this role. She has been officially approved for the role and has assisted in every single international meet. Until now.
The Tokyo Game organizers have had to limit the number of people attending the games as a result of COVID-19. This means no spectators, and also limited staff. As a part of these restrictions, there will be one singular care assistant for all 34 Paralympic swimmers. Of these, there are 10 visually impaired individuals competing.
The issue here is a misunderstanding of essential and nonessential. Nonessential staff are not allowed at the games. But for Becca, her care assistant is essential.
Becca is not alone in her frustration of the decision.
After announcing that she would not be able to compete, she has had many messages of support. One of these was Maggie Hassan, Senator from New Hampshire who said she was outraged and that this situation was preventable.
Becca emphasizes that she should not still be fighting for her rights as a disabled person. She hopes that being vocal about the situation will help future generations of athletes from experiencing the same thing.
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