Michael Myers, David Brown, Amanda Morris discussed on Press Play with Madeleine Brand
Is press play on KCRW. I'm Madeleine brand. The Paralympics begin today in Tokyo. More than 4000 athletes are there to compete in this year's games. And just like the Olympic Games, their families are not allowed to travel with them because of Covid. And that's a bigger problem for Paralympians because some rely on their parents caregivers. A few athletes even pulled out of the Games. Because of that, like US swimmer back up Myers, who won three gold medals and a silver in the 2016 Paralympics in Rio. Joining us now to talk about this is Amanda Morris. She's a disability reporting fellow for The New York Times High. Hi. Thank you so much for having me. Great to have you well. Parents were barred from traveling to Tokyo for the Olympics and the Paralympics. But I guess I'm wondering why weren't exceptions made for the Paralympians who really some of them really rely on their parents for basic needs. Yes. Interesting. You bring that up, because, um, while other athletes have dealt with, um issues not having their families their prepare Olympian, that really is different. 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 required to compete. Um, so the U. S Olympic and Paralympic Committee has said that um to use personal care systems were not allowed into the games to two restrictions on the side that delegations But athletes argue that they've allowed in other essential personnel such as golfers, caddies, um, and that these personal care assistance should be Delegated as personal they should be delegated as essential personnel as well. Right. And so what does the U. S Olympics and Paralympic Committee said to that? They say that, um personal care systems are considered essential personnel. But athletes like Michael Myers say that they require one on one personal care assistance instead of the U. S Olympic and Paralympic Committee structure. Of having one personal care assistant for the entire team, which has multiple blind swimmers on it. For Becca Meyers, her experience in the 2016 Olympics is what caused her to push for a one on one accommodation. She was told during the 2016 Paralympics that coaches and teammates would be available to help her. But 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 death and said that she ended up sobbing on the floor of her hotel room. Because she wasn't getting enough to eat, and she was considering pulling out at that point in 2016. And then she did pull out in these Olympics. So what was behind that decision? Yeah, So after 2016, she decided she would never put herself in that position again, and she has fought for her mother, Maria Myers to regularly travel with her as a personal care assistant. Which has always been the case. Up until now, Um Even though her mother wasn't considered part of the team. The team allowed her mother to accompany her at all times so long as the family footed the bill. This year, however, because her mother wasn't considered part of the team. Her mother wasn't able to get any kind of credential to get into the games and be considered part of the delegation. And so she just wasn't able to have her mother with her, despite these requests, and despite past understandings in which her mother was with her And officials are saying that's because of Covid. We have to limit the amount of people who can come Yes, that is what officials are saying that it's because of covid so they can't bring all the people that they brought in the past. But again, um Paralympic athletes point out that they have allowed Golfers, caddies and as well as other essential personnel. And they argue that having one personal care assistant for an entire team doesn't meet the requirements of athletes like Becca Meyers or others like her, which I'd be happy to talk about. Right. There's a guy named Mikey Brannigan, who runs track and field. Um, he has autism, right? And what are the issues he faces not having. A personal caregiver with him. So, yes, Mikey Brannigan has an intellectual disability and his parents did actually consider pulling him out this year, but The Paralympic Games means so much to him that they've been trying to make it work. Um In 2016. He had a personal coach with him, Uh, In the past, you've had a personal coach with him named Sandra Robinson. And they said that in 2016, he did actually did not have a personal coach, which is what led to some issues. Um, I had at the 2016 Olympics. He was on the way to a training facility and because he couldn't have a personal care assistant with him. He ended up getting lost in an airport for several hours. And then once he got to the training facility They were told the parents were told that he would be supervised at all times. But then Mikey ended up accidentally misplacing another athletes equipment, which led to Misunderstanding and let's have some tension at the training facility that his parents believe could have been avoided if you had a personal care assistant Um And he also had some other, um, difficulties like He doesn't express pain to everybody. When he is hurt, he only expresses it to a few trusted people, such as his personal care assistant. And, um, he has some allergies that he might not. Be able to eat properly. If somebody isn't helping him, avoid the things that he's allergic to. So his parents were really concerned, and they ended up getting his personal assistant, Sandra Robinson, to go as his personal coach. But that does not give her access to his eating and sleeping areas. Um, to do US Olympic and Paralympic Committee says that there is a coach who was assigned to Mikey that will be watching him. But that coach has said that she doesn't feel qualified to tend to make these needs because with people who have intellectual disabilities You can't just put them all under the theme umbrella. They say that every single individual has their own needs and their own challenges. So this instance, Roslyn Clark is the coach that was assigned to watch Mikey Brett again. She's also assigned to watch her own daughter, Brianna Clark, who has an intellectual disability as well. And Roslyn Clark has said that her daughter's needs and Mikey's needs are very different. Right and so still, despite all that he's expected to compete and others as well. And just to end on a more up note. What are some of the highlights here looking for really quickly? Yeah, So this year will be the first time that we're having badminton in taekwondo in the Paralympics, so that will be fun to watch. Um, there will also be several superstar athletes to watch such as Jessica long. She's got 23 medals, and she is a Paralympic swimmer, and there's also Tatyana McFadden. She's called the queen of the track. She competes in wheelchair track, and she's a 17 time medalist. Who has won many races but not yet cleaned a Paralympic gold medal, so all eyes will be on her as well. And then another man that I can think of that would be interesting to watch would be David Brown. He's been called the fastest blind man in the world, So we'll be watching for his race as well. And in terms of events, wheelchair basketball, it expected to be very competitive. The U. S wheelchair basketball team has won the gold in 2016, and they are trying to defend it this year and then built your rugby. Also known as Murder Ball is a very, um Intense for it, and they're attempting to get the gold medal for the U. S team for the first time this year. They won silver in 2016 and bronze in 2012, so they're just looking to bump it up a little bit further..