Deaf-Blind Paralympian Quits Team USA After Not Being Allowed Assistant in Tokyo

by Shelby Scott

Paralympian Becca Meyers quit Team USA after being told she could not bring her mother and personal care assistant (PCA) to Tokyo with her. The 26-year-old deaf-blind swimmer was projected to compete for up to four medals this Olympic season. However, her decision has seemingly affected the end of her professional career in this realm.

She made the bold decision not to go, choosing instead to take a stand against the prejudices disabled athletes face on a regular basis.

“I need to say something to effect change,” she told the Washington Post, “because this can’t go on any longer.”

Meyers’ parents have corresponded frequently with the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC), rallying behind her and her decision not to compete. Maria Meyers expressed blatant frustration with the committee. She stated, “I’d love to wrap something around their eyes and stick something in their ears,” and tell them to figure it out.

Other essential game personnel includes golfers’ caddies and equestrian horses’ grooms. One wonders what makes the Paralympians’ PCAs any less essential.

For this reason, Meyers has decided to take a stand against those in charge of such decisions. She claims the USOPC is essentially treating Paralympic players like “a burden” to the team.

Paralympian Meyers Suffers from Rare Genetic Disorder Called Usher Syndrome

Usher syndrome left the Paralympic swimmer deaf at birth and with progressively deteriorating eyesight as she aged. Prior to dropping from Team USA, Meyers was only one of 34 swimmers who is both deaf and blind.

Paralympic classifications previously had Meyers listed under an S13 category, the least visually impaired category for the games. However, Meyers now falls under the S12 category with S11 athletes considered to be completely or almost completely blind.

During past games, because she had some visibility as an S13 athlete, she relied on lipreading to navigate. This year though, mask mandates disrupt that and further disable her ability to communicate and function as a normal person.

Like Meyers, Other Paralympic Athletes Are Afraid to Compete with the Disallowance of PCAs

As mentioned, Meyers refused to participate as a member of Team USA without the assistance of her mother and PCA. According to her, PCAs further help athletes function in the sport and also as everyday members of society.

After navigating the 2016 Rio games alone, Meyers promised, “she would never put herself through that again.” She recalled sobbing and balling herself up on the floor of her room, frustrated and terrified. She was unable to navigate the grounds on her own.

Because of this year’s strict restrictions, Meyers isn’t the only Paralympian dropping from the game. The Washington Post stated that once the USOPC lets one PCA in, the committee needs to let them all in.

Other Paralympian athletes who have not yet dropped from the games are currently stuck figuring out how to function. “I’ve talked to some of them,” Meyers said, “and they’re afraid.”

Nonetheless, other Paralympic swimmers are still planning to attend the Tokyo 2020 games despite COVID-19 disruptions and restrictions. Check out our article featuring solider-athlete Elizabeth Marks.