This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Sense India. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Are The Paralympics Inclusive Of Athletes With Deafblindness?

More from Sense India

The recent case of Becca Meyers, a three-time gold winning Paralympic swimmer with deafblindness, quitting the US team over not being allowed a personal care assistance (PCA), due to Covid-19 restrictions has shocked the world.

If the situation is so dangerous, then why are the Paralympics being held?

People with disabilities are one of the largest growing minorities in the world. If they were all living in the same country, it would be the third largest in terms of its population, after China and India.

Approximately 1.2 billion people with disabilities exist in the world i.e., 15% of the global population. Yet, only a sliver of that percentage are participating in the Paralympics 2021, being held at Tokyo.

This Paralympic season, let us know learn about our very own Pushpa Kadayat, a sportsperson with deafblindness, who represented India in powerlifting in the Special Olympics held at Los Angeles in 2015.

She went on to win four medals: one silver in benchpress and three bronze medals in the deadlift, squat and combination events, respectively.

Pushpa Kadayat wearing 4 medals= 3 bronze and 1 silver around her neck being felicitated by the chief minister of Delhi Arvind Kejriwal and is surrounded by supporters.
Pushpa Kadayat being felicitated by the chief minister of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, for her impressive wins at the Special Olympics (2015).

From Nepal To India

She still remembers the day when her school’s PT (physical therapy) teacher, Anupama Singh, stopped her mother from getting her transfer certificate and sending her to Nepal.

Her teacher asked for a few days to make sure that Pushpa had tried everything, to stay. At the time, Pushpa was 16 years old and weighed 110 kg. Pushpa also has deafblindness, caused by Usher Syndrome, with a mild intellectual disability.

Hailing from a Nepali family based in Delhi, Pushpa narrated the chores she would do in her village in Nepal. “I would lift buckets of water to take to our farm to water the crops and that was my responsibility. Not a moment of rest—everything was hard work. That is where I think my liking of powerlifting began.”

Her teacher asked around and questioned Pushpa’s peers about her. They said that Pushpa couldn’t see and hear well.

“Initially, I started with shot put. My teacher wanted me to try every sport. Then I placed second in powerlifting and I have been doing it ever since. I am a powerlifter as well as a person with deafblindness,” she said.

Pushpa Kadayat in action at the Special Olympics.

Training And Tremendous Hard Work

Pushpa said it was difficult training for the sport. “I was overweight as a child, so it was difficult for me to do everything. Being a powerlifter, I had to control my weight and it was really hard, as I had to play in the 90 kg category.”

There was no professional trainer in her area so she had to travel 13 km, one way, to the nearest gym. “I need a support person 24/7. A support person is vital to my training as they help me understand the environment and keep me safe.” Rupa, Pushpa’s sister and support person, was always with her.

Rupa said, “I had to be with her 24/7. I used to explain the use of equipment and pass on information from her trainer to her, back and forth. I was juggling my 12 standard studies and supporting Pushpa in the gym. For two years, I slept for only three hours.”

Rupa added, “I am happy that we are finally seeing the fruit of tremendous hard work.”

“Sensitisation Is Half The Battle Won”

Pushpa got her first break when she represented India in powerlifting in 2015. “I felt so proud to see the Indian flag flying high. I was very happy to witness it.”

A lot of sensitisation was done for her peers and coaches, so they could support her to reach where she is today. Sensitisation is half the battle won.

“Being a person with deafblindness, I am very aware of the things that I cannot do. It had affected my confidence. But becoming a sportsperson and representing my country I have gotten my confidence back,” explained Pushpa.

Learning about Becca Meyers pulling out of the Paralympics, Pushpa said, “I was so sad to hear about Becca Meyers. She won three gold medals for her country in swimming. She could have made her country proud again. This is discrimination. I thank her for raising her voice for not only her rights but for all of us. As a fellow sportsperson and as a person with deafblindness, I support her.”

There are not enough sports persons with deafblindness, not because they do not exist. On the contrary, the access to properly-trained coaches and trainers who can mould sports persons with disabilities like deafblindness (a dual sensory impairment), infrastructural and human support is next to nil.

How Inclusive Are The Paralympics?

The Paralympics’ motto ‘spirit in motion’, has withered in the pandemic. The recent issue of Becca Meyers has raised a question: how inclusive is the Paralympics? Or rather, how inclusive are the Paralympic committees of each country?

Becca is a celebrated, three-time gold winning Paralympic swimmer with deafblindness. When the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee cited Covid-19 restrictions at the Tokyo Olympics, 2021, for not allowing her a PCA, she quit the US team.

She did it, not only because of concerns over her safety, but also to act as a catalyst of change for future generations.

People with disabilities have the right to participate in events like the Paralympics and in situations like the pandemic, even more so. It is the duty of the committees executing these event to make them accessible—whether it is through infrastructure or human support.

In the case of Becca, human support is what she needed and it was denied to her. This story is not just of Becca, but of many people with disabilities who want to represent their country at the global level, but cannot.

The lack of infrastructure, coaches and trainers trained in disability, accessibility provisions etc. lead to a lack of representation of people with disabilities in sports, around the world.

Written by Sonia Gervasis, an officer in the communications department of Sense International India.

Featured image, taken from Wikimedia Commons, is for representational purposes only.
You must be to comment.

More from Sense India

Similar Posts


By Vaseem Chaudhary

By Lifewithhasi

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below