The Tokyo Olympics will finally provide long-awaited recognition to Paralympic athletes. After the 2018 Winter Olympics, the US Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) announced Paralympians and Olympians will earn the same pay for the medals they win. Paralympic athletes will now receive $37,500 for each gold medal earned at the Paralympic Games, $22,500 for silver, and $15,000 for bronze. Previously, paralympic athletes received $7,500 for gold medals, $5,250 for silver, and $3,750 for bronze.
“Paralympians are an integral part of our athlete community and we need to ensure we’re appropriately rewarding their accomplishments,” USOPC Committee CEO Sarah Hirshland said back in 2018, when the change was implemented. Paralympic athletes who competed in the games three years ago were retroactively awarded fair pay, but Tokyo marks the first time they’ll earn this increased compensation in real time.
This is a step in the right direction, but the Paralympic Games still lack appropriate accommodations for its athletes. Swimmer Becca Meyers, who is deaf and blind, recently withdrew from the competition because the USOPC denied her a reasonable and essential accommodation: a “trusted personal care assistant” (PCA). In an Instagram post, Meyers expressed disbelief at this lack of progress. “In 2021, why as a disabled person am I still fighting for my rights?” she continued. “But enough is enough. I need to speak up for the next athlete who is deaf-blind or disabled in another way. As Paralympians, we train as hard as our counterparts, the Olympians. We deserve the same quality and safety nets that our able-bodied teammates will receive in just a few days’ time.”