Recently, the U.S. Dept. of Education sent a letter to every school in America that regularly receives federal funding. The letter was a simple reminder of those schools' legal obligation to provide athletic opportunities for those with disabilities.
In the view of many activists for the rights of the disabled, this letter was necessary—and had been a long time coming. The reminder was accurate; in 1973, an act was passed that instructed schools to either allow disabled students to compete on the school’s teams or to offer an adapted form of that sport for those with disabilities. Schools that chose to ignore these options could potentially see some time in court.
Of course, when it comes to school athletics of any kind, it often comes down to a matter of school needs and money. As Derek Brown, adaptive sports coach at the University of Arizona put it, “There is another major issue here, and that’s money. The schools will either not have enough for their bottom line, or they will not want to share that revenue, and that’s going to cause conflict. Until athletic departments are given a mandate and told that they have to share, they probably won’t.”
Another college coach went so far as to compare the economic rift between able-bodied sports and adapted sports such as wheelchair basketball is about the same as “the gap between a Third World country and the United States.”
In response to these recent movements, the NCAA put together the Student-Athletes with Disabilities Subcommittee.
This subcommittee is tasked with finding new opportunities for those with disabilities where there were no opportunities before. They are looking for adaptive sports to include in their university’s offerings—sports such as track and field, and wheelchair basketball. With an awareness of disabilities at an all-tome high on most campuses, the able-bodied students seem to be not only optimistic, but in favor of such programs. With that sort of support as well as federal involvement, perhaps we can all remain optimistic.