At the Olympic Games, you can see what victory looks like.
At the Paralympic Games, you can hear it too.
For the first time, winning Paralympic athletes are receiving medals filled with tiny steel balls, which allow champions with visual impairment to experience their wins aurally — by shaking them.
The number of balls increases by place — 16 for bronze, 20 for silver, and 28 for gold — so that the medals each make a different sound.
A medal like no other! These Paralympic winners are listening to their medals! For the first time ever, the Paralympic Games have placed a device inside the medals that use tiny steel balls to make a sound when they are shaken, allowing visually impaired athletes to identify which type they are. The bronze medals have 16 steel balls and make the lowest sound. The silver ones have 20 balls and the golds have 28, producing the loudest noise. All of the medals also have the words 'Rio 2016 Paralympic Games' written on them in Braille. Awesome! @rio2016 @paralympics
A photo posted by The Olympic Games (@olympics) on
"Our hope, and I think it's the Olympic Committee's hope too, is that this becomes the style," Victor Hugo Berbert, the manager overseeing the medal's sound feature, told the International Business Times. "That the next games bring other sensory elements for the athletes and that this might carry on."
Though Paralympic medals have featured braille before, the shakeable medal is an attempt to make the games even more accessible to all athletes with disabilities.
The pre-cursor to the modern Paralympics — then called the Stoke-Mandeville Games — first took place in London in 1948. The athletes, mostly disabled World War II veterans, had to be in wheelchairs to compete.
By the time the Paralympic Games were officially founded in 1960, visually impaired competitors, amputees, paraplegics, and persons with cerebral palsy still couldn't participate. Paraplegic athletes were first included in 1968 and after 16 years of organizing and lobbying — led by the International Sport Organization for the Disabled and its 16 affiliated countries — the games finally granted inclusion to blind and amputee athletes in 1976, and athletes with cerebral palsy in 1980.
Since 1992, the games have been hosted in the same city as the Olympics to foster a sense of equality between the two events.
A representative for the games told PRI that athletes have been referring to the rattling of the medal as the "sound of victory."
For winners with vision loss and their competitors, it's a hugely welcome development.