Commentary: Giving Paralympians The Media Coverage They Deserve

The 2016 Rio Olympic Games are in full swing, and so is the excitement and anticipation of both athletes and audiences alike. Those who can’t get enough of the Olympic Games have the Paralympics to look forward to, starting on September 7th. Considered the second largest sporting event in the world, the Paralympics are held in the same venues as the Olympic Games, and feature athletes with physical disabilities and visual impairments from throughout the world. Although the sports are adapted for players with disabilities, they are governed by the same rules of the Olympic Games.

It is easier now more than ever before to keep track of the Olympics, thanks to the Internet, television and social media. Unfortunately, I am not sure we can say the same about the Paralympics. Not much is said in mainstream media about the Paralympic Games or athletes, so I don’t blame the average person for not knowing about these events. For the first time in U.S. history, NBC and NBCSN will broadcast 66 hours of Paralympic events, including the September 7th opening ceremony. Compared with the thousands of hours of Olympics content available on TV and online from these channels, this coverage is minimal at best.

Just like all other athletes, those with disabilities deserve equal media coverage and recognition from the audience. Athletes with disabilities are no more or less inspirational than those without. Disabilities set aside, these athletes need to work just as hard as Olympic athletes to achieve Olympic glory. Take the example of U.S. Paralympian Tucker Dupree, who is on the quest for his first gold medal in swimming. Fellow team member Lex Gillette hopes to continue his winning streak in the long jump category. Both athletes are visually impaired, but had to train and work equally as hard as their sighted counterparts to qualify for the Paralympics.

Besides giving more attention to the Paralympics, the media should portray athletes with disabilities in a positive and enlightening way. I often see stories where more focus is given to an athlete’s disability, rather than their athletic career and goals. While it is true they have overcome obstacles foreign to most people because of their disabilities, Paralympians have other interesting characteristics. They are first and foremost people, and – like athletes without disabilities – have other goals and aspirations.

Kudos to NBC for its commitment to broadcasting part of the 2016 Paralympic Games. This is a step in the right direction, and I hope coverage will be expanded in the future. All athletes, regardless of abilities or disabilities, are inspirational in my book. Paralympians are not participating in the Paralympic Games because of their disabilities, but rather because of their incredible athletic abilities. This, I think, is worthy of more attention from media in the United States and throughout the world.

Interested in watching the Paralympics? This website lists the different TV channels and websites that will broadcast the games around the world.

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