2014 Human Rights Summit

Dec 10, 2014
Tagged with: 2014 Human Rights Summit

Today marks a celebration day of Human Rights. Again, this marks another opportunity to discuss and celebrate the triumph of Human Rights for everyone, World-wide. Also, it’s another opportunity to educate people on the role of sports to all people, especially people with disabilities.

In our world today, sports is a very popular, controversial and yet instrumental tool for various causes in our world. The role of sports has helped shaped the landscape of this nation. In the United States it was about 60 years ago that the role of sports helped cement the belief that everyone in the US should have the same equal opportunities to participate in sport. This was done large in part to the efforts of Jackie Robinson.

Yet, as sports helped identify that everyone has an opportunity to participate it also carved out a societal platform in which all people should not be excluded nor have laws written to prevent from participation in education, voting, and employment. However, as important as these rights are in this country, there is still a large segment in our world that has not embraced this message. As a matter of fact there is still a large segment in which many people are being excluded.

In the US alone there are 57 million people with disabilities. There is still over 69% of this population not employed. Millions of people with disabilities not having employment opportunities or are seeking employment with not much success. Also, people with disabilities are the most underserved group in which 54% of adults do not engage in any physical fitness activities. This would include sports. In regards to youth with disabilities, 34% do not participate in physical fitness activities. This too includes sports.

On January 26, 2013, the office of civil rights wrote the Dear Colleague letter in which opportunities for people with disabilities needed to include high school and secondary education to provide competitive sport opportunities in response to section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act. The passage of this law, section 504, reveals the great disparity that exists for this underserved population.

As a youth with a disability, there were many times when I did not have the opportunity to participate in activities and sport with my peers that did not have disabilities. I was literally sent to another room away from peers to do exercises and to have a separate activity. At that time I was not aware of section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act. Being sent to a different room was a violation of this law that had been in existence for over 10 years. I just wonder how many youth are still being excluded from sport participation?

At the Human Right Summit, the most important message I took away was it is through relationship building that we can ensure that all people, especially people with disabilities, can have the opportunity to participate in sport and physical fitness. At the end of the day, we keep hearing about tolerance and making change, but yet it has still been 40 years and there still an underserved group that is looking for their opportunity. What other relationships are needed to be built? How long does it need to take? Who do I need to talk to?  I am ready to exercise my freedom of speech. I am just not sure if they are going to like what I say.

At the end of the day a true celebration of Human Rights in this country is when all people with disabilities have an abundance of physical fitness and competitive sport opportunities. Now, that would be a day to celebrate. How was your PE experience in school?

Author: Bob Lujano