What’s Up with Courtesy Medals?
I’ve been glued to the Paralympics this week and love how this event puts people with disabilities center stage based on their own achievements. There’s just one thing that bugs me; why are guide runners getting medals?
After watching Wheelchair Rugby, we’ve all learned never to pet someone who uses a wheelchair, right? Sometimes people with disabilities are accompanied by a caretaker, interpreter, or guide. The rule is, if you want to speak to the person with a disability, speak to them, not the person with them. Sounds easy enough.
For example, I’m going to approach a deaf person with my hand out, look at them and say, “Hi, my name is Heather. What’s yours?” I will NOT smile at her, turn to her interpreter and say, “What’s her name? Tell her my name is Heather.”
We need to see people with disabilities as whole and valuable individuals. That’s why I’m loving the Paralympics. Which brings me to the guides…..
People with varying levels of visual impairments are competing in cycling, running, and football (soccer). They can choose to have a sighted guide or not. This is the first paralympics ever that guide runners are getting medals.
The commentator from Channel 4 in Great Britain called them courtesy medals, as in it’s not really about you but thanks for the effort. It seems that having courtesy medals would somehow dilute the meaning of any medal. Since this is a paralympic first, I have no problem with this issue not being clear, but as I see it, it needs to be clarified and communicated by the time we go to Rio. Here are 2 possibilities:
The guides DON’T get medals. They assist the actual competing athlete in a unique way but it is not their (guides) event. They wear pinnies and are called guides. They are part of the team that includes trainers, coaches, and whoever else propels the athlete to the podium. The athlete takes center stage.
The guides DO get medals. If they get medals, they should compete as a team. They should be wearing a team jersey instead of the orange pinnies they’ve been wearing. They should be addressed as a teammate, or sighted runner, as opposed to guide which implies some sort of hierarchy. In the relay for visually impaired runners (take a moment to picture that please and be amazed) the guide actually carries the baton. Seems to be a job for a teammate.
Now before I show you this most fabulous video, I feel compelled (yes, I was yelling at the TV) to clarify something. Just because a person is visually impaired does not mean they’re deaf. A blind person can hear a crowd roaring their name and can independently raise their hands to wave if they choose. Don’t grab a blind person before asking them and receiving instruction about how best to help. The reason all of these rules are broken in the following video is because these teammates, sighted and visually impaired, have been working hard together and have their own mojo.
Here’s the race that led up to the best medal ceremony EVER, I kid you not, and I can’t find it anywhere. If you find it (Women’s 200m T11 final) please post in the comments.
So, what do you think? Should guides be given medals?