BEND, Ore. - The U.S. Department of Education just declared that disabled students must be given opportunities to play on school sports teams or have their own leagues, and a Bend group on Tuesday called that a welcome step forward for youths with special challenges.
It is part of a law that was actually passed in 1973, the Individuals with Disabilities Act. And now, 40 years later, advocates are saying the new federal directive is long overdue.
"This is really exciting news for the world of disability," said Christine Brousseau, executive director of Oregon Adaptive Sports in Bend.
Oregon Adaptive Sports is a organization that helps the disabled of all ages enjoy outdoor sports, like skiing.
Brousseau said schools have been dropping the ball on inclusion far too long --something she suspects has to do with dollar signs.
"Reasonable modifications are so easy," Brousseau said. "Adaptations really can be simple and easy, and I don't think most people realize that. I think a lot of schools just think budgets, and 'Oh nom we have to do one more thing, or enforce one more thing,'" she said.
But what about local schools? Brousseau said her organization has partnered with Bend-La Pine Schools successfully, but she said there is always room for improvement.
"Hopefully, maybe this ruling will help them understand how they can also incorporate more stuff into their daily in school activities," Brousseau said.
And it's about more than just playing the game. Brousseau said sports for disabled youth can make for lasting accomplishments--including better jobs, a healthier life and greater self-worth.
"What it comes down to is that students with disabilities want to be included, and want to be seen for what the can do -- and not what they can't," she said.