Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Florida HS Athletic Association considers allowing wheelchair athletes to become official members of track teams

From Tampa Bay Online:

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - The Florida High School Athletic Association's Board of Directors is considering to allow wheelchair athletes to become official members of high school track teams and recognized wheelchair events would be contested.

What originally started last spring as a request by one teen wanting to better her personal times has developed into a request to add adaptive track to the state rulebook.

The board voted unanimously Monday to approve the concept and form a subcommittee to report back to the board at the November meeting. Perhaps it will look at neighboring Georgia, which has had adaptive track for seven years.

FHSAA Executive Director Dr. Roger Dearing is as close to this as anyone. His daughter is confined to a wheelchair after being paralyzed from a car accident.

"I'm going to give you my perspective," Dearing said following the four-hour general business meeting. "When I go into building, I evaluate whether they have ADA (American Disabilities Act) accessibility. You know, from one end of the dining area to another. Obviously this is a different perspective, but the number of disabled people is increasing geometrically. Years ago, there weren't that many disabled people – not just in the public schools but in the general population. There are more car accidents … more athletic accidents. It's getting to be much more predominant than it used to be."

Dearing added there will be undoubtedly be other issues that the board will have to address, including the process certifying the disability by a licensed medical physician, the type of equipment used to compete in and who will be required to provide that equipment.

"I don't think there's a fear of where it will end. I think the concern is how, as an athletic association No. 1 and as an individual school No. 2, how can I afford to meet all those needs? For example, right now we only know one person in the state that wants to compete in the wheelchair category for track. But all it takes is one. It's not a fear, it's a concern on how we'll be able to accommodate because that's what it's all about – being able to accommodate," he said.