About a month ago we wrote about a team of disabled athletes who compete in sled hockey on Saturdays in Central Park. Their coach, who organized the team, said he hoped to teach his players that an injury or illness doesn’t have to be a barrier in their lives. To the satisfaction of many across the country who live with disabilities, his sentiment was recently backed up by the federal Education Department.
On Friday, the Education Department announced that schools throughout the U.S. will be required to allow disabled students to compete in school athletics, whether that means making “reasonable modifications” to allow disabled students to join a pre-existing team or creating a new program that will allow them to compete.
Many who have supported this decision have compared it to Title IX, which mandated that women’s athletic programs be treated the same as men’s in schools across the country. This led to increased participation by women and girls in school athletics, which may or may not happen with disabled students.
While the Education Department emphasized that the change was not meant to substantially alter existing athletic programs or make it mandatory that spots be reserved for disabled students but rather to allow students with disabilities to be given the opportunity to participate. The education secretary spoke to the valuable life lessons that can be garnered from participation in sports programs, saying that all students should be given the chance to benefit from that.
Many young students who live with disabilities know the feeling of limitation well. Hopefully, this new requirement will give those students the opportunities to participate in programs they may have felt they were missing out on.
Source: Associated Press, “Schools must provide sports for disabled, US says,” Philip Elliott, Jan. 25, 2013