U.S. Says School Sports Are A Civil Right For Disabled04:57
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Wheelchair athlete Tatyana McFadden, front, races in her first high school track meet alongside able-bodied runners in April 2006 in Rockville, Md. McFadden sued the county school system in federal court in Baltimore for the right to race at the same time as able-bodied athletes. She had been forced to compete in separate wheelchair events, usually by herself. (Chris Gardner/AP)
Wheelchair athlete Tatyana McFadden, front, races in her first high school track meet alongside able-bodied runners in April 2006 in Rockville, Md. McFadden sued the county school system in federal court in Baltimore for the right to race at the same time as able-bodied athletes. She had been forced to compete in separate wheelchair events, usually by herself. (Chris Gardner/AP)

The U.S. Education Department is telling schools that they must make "reasonable modifications" to accommodate students with disabilities on sports teams, or create a parallel athletic program.

The directive is the biggest change since Title IX mandated equal athletic opportunities for women, and it comes after years of work by a coalition of athletes and advocates.

But it started with a young wheelchair athlete from Maryland, Tatyana McFadden, who was born with spina bifida and is paralyzed from the waist down.

When McFadden was 15, she won a silver medal in the 100-meter and a bronze in the 200-meter in the 2004 Paralympics.

But it wasn't until she won a lawsuit later that she was allowed to race on her high school track team.

  • What do you think about the directive to accommodate disabled student athletes? Let us know in the comments or join the debate on our Facebook page.

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This segment aired on January 25, 2013.

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