Tagged with: accessibility ADA advocate athletes awareness children coach disabilities disability rights education employment goals health life Physical Activity programs sport veterans wheelchair
Did you hear that sound? It is the sound of change. I am not talking about the seasons that are denoted by a change in weather and temperature. But something has changed in our culture and more importantly our mindset.
Just today an opportunity for student-athletes with disabilities has been established to create leagues and championships for various sport teams at the university level. That is right! An agreement has been establish with the NCAA and the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC) that will provide more competitive sport opportunities for people with disabilities, veterans, people with eligibility and people without disabilities. I am talking about a major step towards inclusion in our society’s competitive landscape.
How did we get to this point?
In 1973, the Rehabilitation Act was written which features 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.”
Since this was written over 40 years ago, in January 2013, the Office of Civil Rights wrote a Dear Colleague which stated that now is the time that these federal funded facilities, schools, universities, etc. have in place programs for people with disabilities to participate in recreation and competitive sport. Today, a big step was made in addressing this letter.
As a person with a disability, I had an opportunity to participate in recreational sport at a collegiate level. However, I did not get the opportunity to participate at a competitive level. Nonetheless, my participation at a collegiate level was so beneficial in my growth as a young man. I felt very much connected to the University of Texas at Arlington. I was very much apart of the social climate and connected to the athletes. I was so connected that I made a career out of it as well as a competitive opportunity. It was so beneficial to my development that to this day I still keep in touch with my fellow alumni.
This day will bring even more opportunities for people with disabilities in participating in competitive sports and being a student/athlete and all its benefits. They will have an opportunity to show an even greater growth because they have been given more opportunity. It is through this opportunity that a cultural change can happen in communities, society, and even our nation.
The change is filled with the hope of more students with disabilities participating, the more educational opportunities they will have and the more employment opportunities they can seek. With more people with disabilities in the work force the more ideas of inclusion and universal design can become mainstream. This step of including people without disabilities may wrinkle features for people with disabilities, but remember the picture in my eyes is the benefit that people with disabilities can have. The opportunity to have a student/athlete experience at a collegiate level.
Did you hear that sound? It is the sound of whistles blowing, of wheelchairs moving and contacting each other, it’s the sound of opportunity for people with disabilities. This opportunity is to educate, to compete, to grow, and to live. It really is a beautiful day.
What are your thoughts on this new competitive opportunity?