Playing Sports Now a Civil Right

Art Caplan and his colleagues at the NYU Sports & Society Program have an interesting new essay up at Forbes:

Obama Administration: Playing Sports Is Now A Civil Right

The United States Department of Education has released aguidance requiring schools to make “reasonable modifications” to include students with disabilities in mainstream athletics programs or provide parallel options. That may sound like just another boring piece of paper that oozes off the desk of a government bureaucrat on any given day. But this is very different. The guidance proclaims that access to interscholastic, intramural, and intercollegiate athletics is a civil right.
Asserting access to athletic programs as a civil right is a big step forward for our education system and, of course, for people with disabilities. It highlights the important role that sports can play in the development of young people as functioning and contributing members of society. It also serves to help decrease the stigma too often associated with physical, mental, and emotional disabilities.

The limitation of a guidance is that it clarifies existing laws, but doesn’t create new ones. So, although it’s not a “toothless tiger,” it’s questionable as to whether anyone will be able to file a lawsuit based on it. And there are sure to be lawsuits because it’s inevitable that the guidance is going to create a host of issues about classification and definition such as: What is a disability? What is a “reasonable modification”? What is a reasonable “accommodation”? What will get modified: the sport, the arena, or the people eligible to play?

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