For Immediate Release: New Guidance Will Enhance Sports Opportunities for Students with Disabilities

For Immediate Release: New Guidance Will Enhance Sports Opportunities for Students with Disabilities

Incfit_listserv] For Immediate Release: New Guidance Will Enhance Sports Opportunities for Students with Disabilities


Schools Must Provide Sports Opportunities to those with Disabilities under OCR Guidelines Issued Today

Impact Compared to Title IX

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 24, 2013

ATLANTA, GA – A historic and significant milestone for our nations’ school children with disabilities has been reached with the guidance issued today by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR). <http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/index.html> The guidelines clarify schools’ responsibilities under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act to provide athletic opportunities for students with disabilities. The American Association of Adapted Sports Programs <http://www.adaptedsports.org> (AAASP) commends the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights for this guidance, as it will have far reaching positive effects on the lives of children with disabilities and our communities.

Guidelines
http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201301-504.html

“Each person and group who has worked within this sports movement can take heart that their work has not gone unnoticed and that with this new guidance we can further advance our vital work of making sure all kids who want to take part in school sports will have an opportunity to do so,” said Beverly Vaughn <http://www.adaptedsports.org/adaptedsports/about/about_staff_bv.html> , AAASP Cofounder and Executive Director.

Ralph Swearngin <http://www.adaptedsports.org/adaptedsports/about/about_board_of_directors_rs.html> , Executive Director of the Georgia High School Association <http://ghsa.net/> (GHSA) and board member of the National Federation of State High Schools said that he applauds the focus OCR is giving to providing athletic opportunities for disabled students. Swearingin commended AAASP for its leadership, expert guidance and pioneering efforts in this area of sport development for students with disabilities and stated, “the partnership GHSA has had with AAASP for over ten years now has been exceptional and we hope to see other state associations join AAASP as we move forward together for the positive educational benefit of sports participation for all students with disabilities.”

Through an alliance struck between the two groups in 2001, GHSA has relied on AAASP to assist with the integration of track and field <http://www.playonsports.com/channels/georgia/events/19529> events for those with disabilities. The AAASP/GHSA Varsity Wheelchair Basketball State Championship <http://www.playonsports.com/channels/georgia/events/17181> game has been telecast across the state for 8 years by Georgia Public Broadcasting <http://www.gpb.org/pressroom/basketball> alongside the boys and girls title games in basketball.

GAO study called for guidance
The guidance followed a 2010 study from the Government Accountability Office <http://www.gao.gov/Products/GAO-10-519> . GAO found that students with disabilities receive fewer opportunities for physical activity and sports participation than students without disabilities. The GAO called on the Department of Education to provide resources to assist states and schools in addressing this disparity of services and also asked that clarification of schools’ responsibilities be provided regarding athletic opportunities for students under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Catolyn McCarthy (D-NY) and George Miller (D-CA) had called for the GOA study.

Advocates invoke Title IX
The Inclusive Fitness Coalition <http://incfit.org/> , comprised of over 200 groups around the nation, including AAASP, has called OCR’s guidance a landmark moment in opening the doors to students with disabilities in much the same way as Title IX has done for women. “It sends a loud message to educational institutions that students with disabilities must be provided opportunities for physical activity and sports equal to those afforded to students without disabilities,” according to AAASP Board member, Terri Lakowski <http://http://www.activepolicysolutions.com/about-us/leadership/&gt; , CEO of Active Policy Solutions in Washington, DC and former policy director for the Women’s Sports Foundation. Lakowski has championed efforts for equal physical activity and sports opportunities for women, girls and students with disabilities for over ten years.

Impact
Researchers with Healthy People 2011 indicated that since activity levels in adulthood are usually lower than during childhood, sport and physical activity patterns established during childhood form the foundation for lifelong physical activity and subsequent health and contribute to an overall quality of life.

Studies considered by OCR in issuing their guidance also establish that children with physical disabilities have greater activity barriers. They are often not encouraged to lead active lives and in fact this failure tends to lead to sedentary lives with greater health problems that may be avoidable.

Commenting on OCR’s announcement, Tommie Storms, <http://www.adaptedsports.org/adaptedsports/about/about_staff_ts.html> AAASP’s Cofounder and Director of Operations noted that, “From its founding nearly 16 years ago, when our model was integrated into 10 school districts in less than three months time. AAASP has utilized every tool at its disposal to develop and implement policy, systems, adapted rules and training opportunities that have led to lasting sustainability and reasonable costs.”

Vaughn added, “We would also be remise not to acknowledge those who comprise our member schools and high school associations and nearly two decades of input, review and recognition for our collective efforts by many of the nations’ best minds in this area of sport and physical development. This news could not come at a better time for these administrators, teachers, coaches and coordinators who’ve dedicated themselves to the success of these students.”

Parents <http://www.adaptedsports.org/adaptedsports/media/pr_1.html> whose children take part in these programs have reported that it has been noting short of a life changing experience for their child.

The other top benefits identified by parents whose children participate include:
• The opportunity to play sports that the kids would otherwise never have
• Noted reductions over previous years in secondary health complications resulting from sedentary habits.
• The ability to work hard, participate in a group, set goals, & excel in sports
• Increased motivation to get good grades, improvement in academics
• Active engagement and friendship with other students, mentors, & coaches

Additional Info

Ben Master Named Athlete of the Week in Warner Robbin, GA. <http://warnerrobins.13wmaz.com/news/news/62847-athlete-week-ben-masters>
PBS, “This is Atlanta” Introduction to AAASP <http://vimeo.com/21811605>

About AAASP

The American Association of Adapted Sports Programs, Inc. works in partnership with education agencies in the U.S. to establish programs, policies, procedures, and regulations in interscholastic adapted sports for students with physical disabilities; provides services to Local Education Agencies, State High School Associations and State Departments of Education in extracurricular adapted athletics for physically disabled children attending grades 1-12; and improves student well-being while positively influencing total student development. For more information, please visit http://www.adaptedsports.org <http://http://www.adaptedsports.org/&gt; and/or view this short PBS special <http://vimeo.com/21811605> on the group.

Tommie Storms
Cofounder, Director of Operations

American Association of Adapted Sports Programs, Inc.
PO Box 451047
Atlanta, GA 31145
404-294-0070 office
404-291-4514 cell
http://www.adaptedsports.org

Off the sidelines, into the game.

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