You mostly see them during the Para Olympics competing for those same valuable medals that the fully able bodied athletes strive for and we are amazed that they can do the things they do in wheelchairs, and with artificial limbs of all types, but the one place we need to see more of them is in college competition.
Last year, the federal government here in the United States reminded all school districts that disabled students should have a level playing field when it comes to school sports. This is the opportunity for the country to live up to its ideals of equality for all. Federal guidelines call on all schools to make the needed modifications so that those students, no matter what the handicap, has a chance to compete in any sport he or she chooses. School sports programs build character along with providing physical fitness, and promotes leadership qualities and allows the culture of long time friendships which contributes to a persons well being.
You know, until just recently, the handicapped student was denied the opportunity to participate in a school's athletic organization. They were denied this chance until 1973 when the federal Rehabilitation Act was passed, and even then, it proved to be more theoretical than real when it came to sports. Many schools saw making modifications for these students to compete in athletics was to costly, and would diminish their athletic programs. While making his statements last year, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said ,”While it is a coach’s job to pick the best team, students with disabilities must be judged based on their individual abilities, and not excluded because of generalizations, assumptions, prejudices, or stereotypes. Knowledgeable adults create the possibilities of participation among children and youth, both with or without disabilities.”
There are many inspirational stories of students who overcame physical disabilities to win accolades in football, wrestling, track, and other sports. And by providing equal opportunities for the disabled athletes we are sure to hear many more such stories. The stories will not only inspire the newly handicapped person who suffers low self esteem, but could be an insperational blueprint for many of us who are able bodied who think about quitting when life throws us a curve ball.