Should This Teen Have Been Banned From The Paralympics?

The 2013 World Paralympic Games ended yesterday. Noticeably missing from them: a champion swimmer who was banned for a shocking reason.

Seven years ago, Victoria Arlen suffered a rare neurological disorder of the spinal cord, reports NESN. It left her paralyzed from the waist down. Several months later, she fell into a coma that lasted for three years. Last year, having endured the fight of her life, she made the U.S. Paralympic swim team. She earned a gold medal in the Paralympic Games in London—and set a world’s record, too.

Last week, days before the games in Montreal that Arlen had trained for, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) ruled she couldn’t compete. Per the statement issued, she will not be participating for “…having failed to provide conclusive evidence of a permanent eligible impairment.”

Arlen expressed her disappointment on her Facebook page. “I’m so heartbroken with what has happened…. Being penalized for maybe having a glimmer of hope of one day being able to walk again is beyond sad. What message are we giving the world when we don’t encourage hope for disabled individuals?”

The committee that issued the report  was sticking by the IPC Rules and Regulations, which require an eligible impairment leading to permanent or verifiable activity limitation. They upheld the decision, despite an appeal.

It’s hard to blame the committee for going by the rules, but the requirement for a “permanent” limitation needs to change. A disabled person’s current circumstances should be the determining factor. This is the opposite of the inclusion parents of kids with special needs (like me) and individuals with disability strive so hard to achieve. The ripple effect of this requirement: It sends the absolute wrong message to people about welcoming people with all types of abilities. And it shattered one young woman’s dreams.

From my other blog: 

An iPad 2 giveaway for kids with special needs


Image of girl swimming via Shutterstock

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