Becca Meyers, a deafblind Paralympic athlete, was told to navigate Tokyo alone. Instead, she takes a powerful stand for future generations.
The Usher Syndrome Coalition strongly supports Becca Meyers, a deafblind Paralympic swimmer and six-time Paralympic medalist, in her heart-wrenching decision to withdraw from the Tokyo Paralympic Games. She did so because the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) denied her request to bring her mother to serve as her Personal Care Assistant (PCA), better known in the deafblind community as a Support Service Provider (SSP). Individuals like Becca who have Usher syndrome, are born deaf and experience tunnel vision and night blindness, making it difficult if not impossible to navigate new territory without a human guide. A PCA is a justifiable and modest accommodation to ensure Becca’s safety and wellbeing while navigating the Games in an unfamiliar area.
Usher syndrome is the most common genetic cause of deafblindness. The Usher Syndrome Coalition represents up to 25,000 Americans and over 400,000 people worldwide living with this rare disease. The Coalition adamantly believes that all people living with a disability have an undeniable right to accommodations necessary for their inclusion in every aspect of society.
The USOPC states its global purpose is to build a better, more inclusive world through sport. The decision to deny Becca’s reasonable and essential accommodation to bring her personal care assistant runs counter to its goal of inclusivity. The reassurance to Becca and her family that one PCA will be provided for 34 athletes, 9 of whom are visually impaired, is irresponsible and, quite frankly, dangerous.
Becca said it best herself: “This is the Paralympics. We should be celebrating everyone’s disabilities. So, in 2021, why as a disabled person am I still fighting for my rights?"
The Paralympics were founded on the basis that people living with disabilities can and will thrive alongside their non-disabled peers, given the appropriate accommodations. The word “Paralympics” is meant to embody this belief: “para” from the Greek preposition meaning “beside or alongside”, along with “Olympics”, illustrating complementary goals of both organizations. The Usher Syndrome Coalition believes the decision to deny Becca her essential needs, from an entity meant to represent people with disabilities, is negligent and unacceptable. It also sends the wrong message to a community fueled by self-determination.
The Usher Syndrome Coalition stands by Ms. Meyers and commends her for speaking out. Becca will be a catalyst for change, for all who are deafblind or living with any disability.