How will Paralympians compete without their caregivers?

The cauldron is lit during the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, August 24, 2021. Photo by REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.

More than 4000 athletes are competing in this year’s Paralympics, which kicks off today in Tokyo. Their families aren’t allowed to travel with them because of COVID restrictions, but some rely on their parents as caregivers. 

“For Paralympians … it’s not just about having support from your family. It's about having literal tools that you need to succeed in competition. And they argue that it's an accessibility accommodation that they require to compete,” says Amanda Morris, a disability reporting fellow for The New York Times. 

U.S. swimmer Becca Meyers, who withdrew from this year’s competition, says she needs one-on-one personal care. Morris recalls what happened during the 2016 Paralympics: “She found that nobody was around to give her the level of care and support that she needed. She wasn't able to go to dining halls and wasn't able to successfully navigate on her own. She is both blind and deaf, and said that she ended up sobbing on the floor of her hotel room because she wasn't getting enough to eat.”