Paralympic swimmer Becca Meyers will not be competing in this year's games following a decision that denied her request for a personal care assistant.
Every athlete dreams of one day representing their country on the world stage. For the blind and deaf 26-year-old, that dream was realized as she competed and won medals at the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics. This year, however, despite making the United States Paralympic swim team, the decorated woman will be staying home.
According to ESPN, Meyers was born with Usher Syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects one's hearing and sight. Deaf since birth, Meyers gradually lost her eyesight, to the point where she is now legally blind and deaf. Given her condition, Meyers requires a personal care assistant to help with daily tasks such as getting around. As ESPN reports, Meyers elected not to have an assistant accompany her to the 2016 games in Rio, but soon realized that she did in fact need one.
"In 2016, I was still trying to figure out my disabilities as a deaf-blind person," she said. "I didn't really know what proper resources I needed. But then I had my crisis–my epic meltdown, and I realized, I can't do this. I need help."
Meyers said she had hoped that her experience in Rio would show the Paralympic swim team that they needed to do more to accommodate deaf-blind athletes. "They're swim coaches," Meyers stated. "They didn't know how to work with us, and that's what I'm trying to change." Meyers added that the team, as well as the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) are well aware of her condition.
The USOPC stated that they are "dealing with unprecedented restrictions around what is possible on the ground in Tokyo," citing the fact that the government of Japan "...is not permitting any personnel other than operational essential staff with roles related to the overall execution of the games, into the country."
The Tokyo games will be unlike any other due to the restrictions put in place by the government in lieu of the pandemic. Spectators, even locals, are not permitted in venues, and testing will be taking place throughout the athletes' village.
Meyers and her family are not convinced that the decision is solely the fault of the Japanese government. "Team USA and USOPC know that I am deaf and blind," Meyers told ESPN. "I need a personal care assistant who I can trust. They are claiming that because of COVID restrictions, I can't get approved for a PCA, but I really don't believe that it's just because of COVID. They chose to ignore my needs." The USOPC expressed its its condolences, but the swimmer says they're not doing enough to accommodate her, and other differently abled athletes.
Meyers posted her decision to withdraw from the games on Facebook, and has garnered sympathy from across the country and beyond.