Deaf-blind swimmer Becca Meyers drops out of Paralympic Games after being denied personal care assistant

Deaf-blind swimmer Becca Meyers drops out of Paralympic Games after being denied personal care assistant

Three-time gold medalist Becca Meyers, who is deaf and blind, said Tuesday that she’s dropping out of the Tokyo Paralympics. The swimmer said she made the “gut-wrenching” decision because the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee refused her request to bring her personal care assistant with her to the Games. 

“I’m angry, I’m disappointed, but most of all, I’m sad to not be representing my country,” she said in a statement. 

“The USOPC has denied a reasonable & essential accommodation for me, as a deaf-blind athlete, to be able to compete in Tokyo, telling me repeatedly that I do not need a Personal Care Assistant (PCA) ‘who I trust’ because there will be a single PCA on staff that is available to assist me and 33 other Paralympic swimmers, 9 of whom are also visually impaired,” Meyers wrote.  

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Meyers said the committee has allowed her to bring her personal care assistant — her mother — to all of the international meets she’s competed in since 2017. While she acknowledged that there are new safety measures and limits on non-essential staff in Tokyo because of COVID-19, she said a trusted assistant is “essential” for her to compete. 

“So, in 2021, why as a disabled person am I still fighting for my rights?” she added. “I’m speaking up for future generations of Paralympic athletes in hope that they never have to experience the pain I’ve been through. Enough is enough.” 

The 26-year-old was born with Usher syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that results in hearing loss and visual impairment. She is a two-time Paralympian who has won three gold medals and multiple world championships. 

The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee did not immediately respond to CBS News’ request for comment. In a statement to The Washington Post, the committee said it is dealing with “unprecedented restrictions around what is possible on the ground in Tokyo.” 

“As it’s been widely reported, [the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games], at the direction of 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 committee said. 

Meyers, who was supposed to compete in four events in Tokyo, said that the Paralympic Games were “supposed to be a safe haven” for athletes with disabilities.

“The Paralympic movement has never had a bigger platform on the world’s stage than it is going to have this summer,” she said. 

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