House lawmakers urge Paralympics to make personal care assistants essential staff

Stacy Revere/Getty Images
MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA – JUNE 19: Becca Meyers of the United States competes in the 200m Individual Medley finals during day 3 of the 2021 U.S. Paralympic Swimming Trials at the Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center on June 19, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

House lawmakers sent a letter to the chief executive officer of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee urging them to make personal care assistants (PCAs) for athletes essential staff.

“We understand the decision made by the five Olympic-affiliated entities to reduce on-site staff due to the pandemic. However, a PCA is essential for athletes with disabilities and impairments,” the letter reads.

Rep. Carol Miller (R-W.Va.) led the effort for the letter that was signed by eight other GOP lawmakers and one House Democrat.

The letter comes after Becca Meyers, a deaf and blind swimmer with Usher syndrome, dropped out of the Tokyo Games because she was denied her own PCA.

“I would love to go to Tokyo,” Meyers said. “Swimming has given me my identity as a person. I’ve always been Becca the Swimmer Girl. I haven’t taken this lightly. This has been very difficult for me. [But] I need to say something to effect change, because this can’t go on any longer.”

The committee defended its decision, saying there are 11 staff members to assist the 34 athletes. 

“In the case of U.S. Paralympics Swimming, there is a designated Personal Care Assistant (PCA) assigned to the team,” the USOPC said.

“This PCA has more than 27 years of coaching experience, including 11 years with para swimmers. Because of the complex nature of these games, the role of the PCA has been filled by a qualified staff member who is able to serve in dual roles and who can assist the team as a whole when needed. This PCA joins a staff of 10 additional accomplished swim professionals, all who have experience with blind swimmers; totaling 11 staff for 34 athletes.”

The letter signed by the House lawmakers states that the athletes “could potentially find themselves in high-risk situations” without their own PCA.

“It is unreasonable to expect these individuals to navigate and compete in the games without assistance, and a PCA should fall under the category of essential staff,” the letter reads.

“As Members of Congress, we encourage USOPC to ensure that all athletes receive the reasonable accommodations they request as a result of their disability. All participants in the Paralympic Games should have the support they need to feel comfortable competing on behalf of the United States of America.”

Updated: 6:20 p.m.

Tags 2021 Olympics Becca Meyers Carol Miller Paralympic Games United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee

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