Recently, the Department of Education modified its guidelines for the treatment of disabled athletes in elementary, middle and high school. Under this ratified policy, athletes unable to play a sport due to a physical impairment may now be able to.
According to an article published in the Chronicle of Higher Education, the new policy will “accommodate certain students, as long as those changes don’t fundamentally alter the way sports are played.”
With these changes being made in kindergarten through 12th grade, the Office for Civil Rights has suggested that it could lead to a possible change to athletics in higher education. This would not happen overnight, but if disabled students are able to play the sport, nothing should hinder that.
The Department of Education defines a disability as someone who has a “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment or is regarded as having such an impairment.”
These terms are extremely broad. It is understandable that being confined to a wheelchair would restrict someone from playing a competitive sport at the collegiate level. However, other disabilities are deemed as making an athlete “unable to play” when that isn’t the case.
Jim Abbott is an example of a “disabled” athlete who defied the term. Though Abbott was born without his right hand, he decided to pursue baseball and ended up in the MLB. He also pitched for the gold medal Olympic team in 1988.
If a man without a hand can pitch in the MLB, then why can’t other “disabled” athletes be given a chance at their sport of choice?
Handicapped athletes are seen as inferior and are not given equal opportunities. Dividing athletes based on “able-bodied” and “disabled” is unacceptable.
Having the ability to play a sport comes with practice. Disabled athletes can overcome barriers with proper training. For those who are unable to due to extreme limitations, schools should offer programs where these athletes can find other ways to exert their skills.
The term “disability” has been defined by society. We have made it OK to outcast individuals who are impaired when their impairments do not restrict their abilities. A disability becomes a problem in sports when there are regulations against them.
But, a limitation should not preclude participation – not in grade school or in collegiate sports. Disabled athletes have allowed rules to inhibit them from pursuing a passion. But as the saying goes, “Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.”
Your disabilities should never define you.
Editorials represent the majority view of The Miami Hurricane editorial board.
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