Archive for Friday, January 25, 2013

Disability advocates cheer new federal guidelines on school sports

January 25, 2013


When he was an infant, Ray Petty contracted polio in the early 1950s. The disease, which affected thousands of other American children, robbed him of much of his ability to use his legs.

Looking back at his childhood growing up in Texas, he said it also robbed him of the chance to participate in many school activities.

"After elementary school, that pretty much just knocked me out of being in gym class and keeping up, running up and down gym courts," Petty said.

Now living in Lawrence, Petty is president of Kansas Accessible Sports, a group that promotes recreation and fitness opportunities for people with mobility impairments. And on Friday, he was thrilled with an announcement from the U.S. Department of Education that school districts must provide students with disabilities an equal opportunity to participate in extracurricular athletics.

"Kids sitting on the sidelines keeping score books or being in the band, and never having the chance to participate in competitive sports, or team sports in particular, in my view really miss out on a lot of socialization," Petty said.

The new federal guidelines were issued by the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights. They are based on Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which prohibits any employer or organization that receives any amount of federal funding from excluding or denying people with disabilities an equal opportunity to receive program benefits and services.

"I think it's a great ruling and it will benefit a lot of young people," said Bob Mikesic, advocacy coordinator for Independence Inc., a Lawrence-based disability rights organization. "Extracurricular activities of various kinds, especially sports and physical education, it really has a positive impact on people's lives."

The guidelines do not require schools to include students with disabilities in selective or competitive sports, but they do prohibit schools from denying those students the chance to compete and to make reasonable accommodations for them.

For example, they suggest that if a deaf student is talented enough to compete in track, but cannot hear a starting gun, the school should provide a light signal to start a race. And in swimming, the guidelines suggest lifting the rule that a swimmer touch the edge of the pool with both hands at the end of a race if there is a one-armed swimmer who is otherwise capable of competing.

However, if schools are unable or unwilling to offer accommodations, the federal agency says they must offer a parallel program just for students with disabilities.

Lawrence school superintendent Rick Doll said he believes local schools already comply with the rules. He noted, for example, that all individualized education plans, or IEP's, for special education students include a statement saying the student, "will have the same opportunities to participate with children without disabilities in extracurricular and other nonacademic activities, unless otherwise noted."

In addition, he said schools work with the Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department to help student take part in other community activities.

"I do agree that extracurricular activities are extremely important for all kids, with or without disabilities," Doll said. "And so as much as possible, making those activities accessible to kids with disabilities is a noble goal."

Gary Musselman, executive director of the Kansas State High School Activities Association, was unavailable for comment Friday. But in an email, he referred to a statement from the National Federation of State High School Associations that expressed "full support" for the new guidelines.

Although it wasn't immediately clear how far the guidelines would extend to college and university sports programs, Jim Marchiony, spokesman for Kansas Athletics, said he believes Kansas University already is in full compliance.

"Kansas Athletics strongly believes in this philosophy and has practiced it," Marchiony said. "We had a deaf woman on our soccer team as recently as two or three years ago, and we provided sign language interpreters. This is a philosophy that we not only believe in, but we practice it."


cheeseburger 1 year, 2 months ago

How about using a modicum of common sense here! I am all for reasonable accommodation, but does anyone really expect someone in a wheelchair to be one of 22 on the gridiron or one of 10 on the basketball court in a traditional setting? I fully support wheelchair basketball and Special Olympics, but let's keep reasonableness and the safety of ALL in mind as attempts are made to meld everyone into the same ability category.

Common sense has clearly taken a back seat to PC these days.


toe 1 year, 2 months ago

You got a love a country where there are no winners or losers. We must get rid of grades in school and eliminate the score board too.


happyrearviewmirror 1 year, 2 months ago

I so admire the well-known ability of Kansans to appreciate others through the mind's eyes and not to judge them by appearances. Witness in the above article Jim Marchiony, spokesman for Kansas Athletics:

"Kansas Athletics strongly believes in this philosophy and has practiced it," Marchiony said. "We had a deaf woman on our soccer team as recently as two or three years ago, and we provided sign language interpreters. This is a philosophy that we not only believe in, but we practice it.

Mr. Marchiony believes" Kansas University already is in full compliance". As anyone who knows how to dishonestly deploy boilerplate rhetoric to deny the emperor's nakedness realizes the letter and the spirit of the law often differ by 180 degrees. No one who thoughtlessly and automatically reduces another human being to a label such as Marchiony does in the soundbite above is in compliance with the spirit of the ADA.

Lawrence in my experience is full of rank literalists, a highly unevolved way to act and be. How can any population be so fundamentally lacking in the ability to understand and listen-- not to mention reason? It takes one to know one I guess, and Kansans don't have that vaunted reputation for intelligence. No surprise they fail to appreciate the quality in others.

Much easier to reduce others to labels , and kid yourself that you are God's gift and entitled to impose incompetent "help" on random pedestrians--meanwhile scaring the pudding out of civilized people with your frightening ignorance.


Brock Masters 1 year, 2 months ago

I am cool with it as long as we don't lower the standards for making the team. No on should be denied the opportunity to try out and if all it takes is a reasonable common sense change to let a kid who meets the standard then by all means. It is a no brainer to alter the rule to let a swimmer touch with only one hand if that is all he has.

However, we do a disservice to everyone involved when we pretend someone with a disability is participating. For example there was a story about a wrestle with a disability. They had to carry him onto the mat and the opposing player rolled him on top of him and let him pin him. That is wrong. You demean the sport and the person with the disability.


richh 1 year, 2 months ago

Last 16 years ago, I remembered when I played high school baseball team as captain and we had one deaf guy name Tom. He had never play on the baseball field for several games during he sit on the bench all the time what the coaches told him to. I told the manager why we let Tom play the baseball game? The manager said, "No, I rather not let him on the field, because he might get hurt." He acts like little fear of Tom.

After ten games, the manager was not here for some reason as court jury, I told asst. manager to let Tom play on the field, because he had not play on the field since first game. The asst manager tried to talk with Tom, but it was hard, because he is total deaf and not understands what asst. manager said, so I wrote a note to Tom to make sure he understand. At the game, we surprised that Tom hit four times in four at bat. He run to double twice and triple one time. Tom scored three times! After the game, he act sign language to me "Thank you"

Next day, we practiced, the asst manager told the manager how Tom played so best in the game. The manager listens and not said anything, because he knew that is wrong thing as not let him play on the field for nine games!

No matter how hearing or deaf human is, both were same thing! Don’t fear of deaf kids, let them play and we can surprise how they play so well!


fan4kufootball 1 year, 2 months ago

Lets keep it real - not everyone is equipped physically and/or mentally for all activities. I love basketball! But as a very short person I was never allowed to participate in the sport (even though I tried out for the team). Nor could I manipulate the hurdles very well in track. Does that make me disabled? No - it means that I need to find some other activity that I can participate in - whether it be another physical sport where height is not such an issue or an activity such as the chess club, debate club, etc. We all have different strenghts and weaknesses. As individuals we have to find the niche we fit into and then excel in that activity.


Thinking_Out_Loud 1 year, 2 months ago

I don't think that Petty meant that being in band was a lesser activity than being on the athletics team. Neither do I think that kusp8 or srj meant that there is no qualitative difference between being in band or being on the athletics team.

Let's all of us calm down and try to understand each other's intents and meanings, rather than nitpick word choices. Our conversations will advance both more quickly and more robustly.


traveler12 1 year, 2 months ago

"Kids sitting on the sidelines keeping score books or being in the band....."

What's wrong with being in the band??!??!


Deb Engstrom 1 year, 2 months ago

I taught special education at LHS for 22 years and my students were never denied the opportunity to participate in any extracurricular activity including cheerleading, swimming, band, vocal music, football, wrestling, bowling, track. Some required accommodations and support but all were participants.


JM Andy 1 year, 2 months ago

It's not about band vs. sports vs. theater, etc. It's about people with disabilities having the same rights and opportunities as everyone else in our country. It's about school's not saying the kid with cerebral palsy can't try out for wrestling. It's about saying HE SURE AS HELL CAN AND HAS THE SAME RIGHT TO TRY. This is a civil rights issue. The ADA and Rehab Act are CIVIL RIGHTS laws. There is nothing new here. The Rehab Act was passed in 1973, but was not complied with for decades. This is about finally policing schools who have discriminated against students with disabilities since...well...EVER.


AjiDeGallina 1 year, 2 months ago

so, KUSP8 does not see a problem with keeping the folks with disabilities in the sidelines because they can do other things? I would imagine susp8 would give them some glue and crayons and glitter and paper and tell them how lucky they are. Personally, I see full access to society as goal for advancement and with an ultimate result of persons with disabilities who are more socially inclined, more independent and more ready for the work place, meaning less public assistance.

Meaning SRJ feels that while our nation can afford to give oil companies close to a billion dollars in subsidies in face of record profits, we can not afford a few million to include the excluded even though in the long run it is a positive investment in our society.

You two are beautiful.


Steve Jacob 1 year, 2 months ago

It all great, until the bills come in. Mr Doll says they already comply, sure some parents will disagree, and next thing you know the next bond issue will say "so we can be compliant with the new regulations".


kusp8 1 year, 2 months ago

Whoa there. Being in band doesn't limit socialization. I'm sorry you had no real opportunities to participate in athletics. But I'm pretty sure there were plenty of people in you graduating class who didn't participate in sports but were able to socialize just fine. So just because you were limited in your opportunities doesn't mean being a non-athlete means you're unable to socialize.


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