In the real world Paralympic sports are underfunded compared to traditional athletic sports. In a more optimistic setting with better accessibility for athletes & racers what kind of people might we have being team representatives & competitors?
Thanks for the question! I’m not someone who knows a lot about sports, but your question connects to the broader idea of what a more optimistic and accessible setting would be like, and that is something that I can speak to.
Like many things in our culture, sports are something that takes resources to participate in, especially for top athletes. These resources include time, equipment, and the ability to travel. A key aspect of better funding is that it would allow more people to have access to the resources needed to participate. This means more participants and better inclusion of people with other marginalized identities, such as people of color.
Another thing worth talking about is that the current state of accessibility is more inclusive of people with some disabilities and less inclusive of others. One of these areas of less accessibility that I want to highlight are disabilities that are strongly affected by the behavior of others. For example, multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) is a condition where people experience flu-like symptoms when exposed to even low concentrations of certain chemicals. Petrochemical fragrances tend to be a big problem for people with MCS, and petrochemical fragrances are in a lot of things that most people use every day, like laundry detergent, hand soap, shampoo, deodorant, and sunscreen. This means that being in a crowd can take a huge toll on people with MCS. While there are carbon filter masks that people can wear, they make it harder to breathe and muffle voices, which isn’t an option for athletes or performers. Creating accessibility for participants with MCS at any live event means shifting community norms around fragrance and grooming product use, as well as creating institutional changes at event spaces to stop the use of fragrance dispensers, scented hand soap, and scented trash bags.
Finally, given that the Paralympics is a sporting event, I want to recognize that it is inherently going to be more inclusive of some disabilities than others. For example, any condition that has frequent, unpredictable flare-ups or that causes pain and fatigue are going to limit people’s ability to participate in a way that other conditions don’t. There may be ways to be more inclusive of people with these conditions, such as having more flexible timing options, but, personally, I’d also love for folks to do more to push the boundaries of what a sport is. People have suggested adding chess as an Olympic event, and I’d love to see that happen for both the Olympics and Paralympics. However, that idea isn’t for everyone, and that is okay too.
I hope that this gives you some helpful ideas and good places to start in your exploration of this topic.
Good luck with your project,
— Fay from Writing Alchemy