Legal Mandate for Inclusion
If coaches or directors of community physical activity programs are not inspired to integrate children into sports leagues; then perhaps the threat of legal action will encourage them to reconsider. After all, integrating children with disabilities into community-based exercise programs is mandated by law through Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination from programs that receive federal funds; through IDEA (1990), which mandates physical education programs for children in school; and the Amateur Sports Act (1978) and Olympic and Amateur Sports Act (1998), which require the U.S. Olympic Committee to provide amateur athletic contests for athletes with disabilities (Wilson, 2002). The Americans with Disabilities Act [ADA] (1990) is perhaps the most sweeping measure to date to eliminate discrimination against individuals with disabilities.
Block (1995) describes in detail how the ADA impacts youth sports in all its intricacies and how communities must provide accessibility, but without incurring an undue burden. For example, children must be allowed to participate even if that participation poses a real threat to the child's safety. It used to be that school districts could disallow contact sport participation for those children who had only one eye or one kidney; under the ADA, these adolescents should be educated as to the risks in playing these sports, but may opt to play, hopefully after consulting with their families and family doctors (Block, 1995). In the context of the ADA, the "readily accessible" parameter is illustrated through this example: if a student with a visual impairment doesn't have the skill level of other participants, then he or she doesn't have to be chosen for the volleyball team, but does have to be able to try out. Again using the example of the child with a visual impairment, an "undue burden" might be foisted on an athletic league if everybody in the league had to wear blindfolds; a more reasonable accommodation might be providing a guide to assist this player during the course of a game (Block, 1995).