A devastating birth injury like cerebral palsy can affect a child’s development in countless ways. One big consequence of a physical impairment is a de facto exclusion from sports opportunities. In what activists are calling a “land mark moment for students with disabilities,” the Education Department recently issued a new order requiring schools to provide more equal access to the benefits of sports.
Under the new rule, schools must look for ways to make reasonable modifications to their sports programs and teams to allow disabled students to participate. If an accommodation is not possible, the school must create a “parallel” program or team to give the same opportunities. In the case of severe cerebral palsy-related physical impairments, for example, this rule could dramatically expand students’ opportunities to engage with their peers and school communities.
As Education Secretary Arne Duncan said to announce the guidelines, “Sports can provide invaluable lessons in discipline, selflessness, passion and courage, and this guidance will help schools ensure that students with disabilities have an equal opportunity to benefit from the life lessons they can learn on the playing field or in the court.”
This rule comes in the midst of an ever-increasing volume of encouraging stories about traditional sports teams that have made room for disabled peers. Although cerebral palsy and other lifelong birth injury conditions will always present big difficulties for affected families, these guidelines will hopefully help more students continue to break down frustrating barriers.
Source: Fox News New York, “Schools must provide sports for disabled, US says,” Philip Elliott, Jan. 25, 2013