Contact: Jon Peck
FHSAA Embraces New Federal Guidance on Equal Opportunity for Student-Athletes with Disabilities
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Dr. Roger Dearing, executive director of the Florida High School Athletic Association, issued the following statement in response to new guidance from the federal government regarding schools’ obligation to provide equal opportunity to students with disabilities who wish to participate in extracurricular athletics. The guidance, issued by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, urges school districts to work with community organizations to increase athletic opportunities for students with disabilities.
Dearing said: “Florida has been ahead of the curve for several years, and we fully embrace the steps suggested by the federal government. In the past few years we have added some adaptive sports to the athletic activities offered at member schools, and we look forward to working with schools, districts and – most importantly – student-athletes with disabilities and their parents – to provide every reasonable opportunity for them to experience the joy and benefits of athletic competition. Wherever and whenever possible, we want every student to have the opportunity to be a part of the team, because providing access to athletic programs for students with disabilities certainly adds value to their overall educational experience. If this new guidance helps just one more student become a student-athlete, it will be worth the effort.”
The new federal guidance letter (available at http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201301-504.pdf) provides examples of the types of reasonable modifications that schools may be required to make to existing policies, practices or procedures for students with disabilities who otherwise are athletically talented enough to compete. The U.S. Department of Education said examples of such modifications could include allowing a visual cue alongside a starter pistol so a student with a hearing impairment can compete in track, or waiver of a rule requiring a “two-hand touch” finish in swim events to accommodate a one-armed swimmer.
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