Tagged with: advocate awareness children disability disability rights exercise fitness health inclusion kids life Physical Activity
On the day we remember Dr. King, the man who was instrumental in writing the Civil Rights Act, which was signed in 1964 to benefit all Americans, there is still one group of citizens who still wait. These are the 57 million Americans with disabilities who are still waiting to have laws passed over 40 years ago to address issues such as basic fitness, recreation, and sport participation.
As we come up on the celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which was signed into law in 1990, to support the rights of all citizens with disabilities in regards to employment and access. However, the one act that always seems to be overlooked is the 1973 Rehabilitation Act.
The 1973 Rehabilitation Act is a very important piece of legislation which also seems to be overlooked. The most important part is Section 504 which states:
“no qualified individual with a disability in the United States shall be excluded from, denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under” any program or activity that receives Federal financial assistance.”
As we move further into the 21st century, people with disabilities are still being put at the back of the bus when it comes to dealing with issues such as a right to have physical education, recreation, and competitive sport opportunities. Doesn’t everyone have the right to have a sport opportunity? On January 24, 2013, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued a Dear Colleague Letter clarifying school’s obligations under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to provide extracurricular athletic opportunities for students with disabilities. The guidance creates a clear roadmap for how schools can integrate students with disabilities into mainstream athletic programs and create adapted programs for students with disabilities. The release of the Dear Colleague letter is merely further guidance on what should already be happening for students with disabilities stemming from section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Why should America care about section 504? Only 54% of people with disabilities participate in some form of physical fitness. Children represent only 38% . The concern is that people with disabilities are more likely to have secondary health conditions due to inactivity. This inactivity leaders to further health issues and financial strain. 57 million Americans represent a growing number in our country. You may either know or be related to someone who has a disability. Also, laws have already been written to address these opportunities. However, after 40 years people with disabilities are still the most underserved population in our nation. With continuing issues such as transportation, healthcare and access barriers, what are we saying when this has taken so long? What are we saying while our society and schools wait to provide mainstream athletic programs and to create adapted programs for many students with disabilities? Included in this wait are the youth of this country. They wait for equal education, they wait for athletic opportunities, and they wait for a society that says it has civil rights for many but maybe not for you. While they continue to wait another generation loses out on opportunity and the benefits of a healthy active lifestyle.
Isn’t the future direction of this country to come from kids and youth? What direction are we showing? Isn’t the future now? Why are we celebrating?
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