BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED ATHLETE INCLUSION PROJECT

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A local blind high school wrestler and his family engaged SCI when his coach decided against allowing him to compete in post-season competition for which he had qualified.

ASSESSMENT

Assessment: The team of researchers at SCI began by examining the strengths and weaknesses of the practices in four institutions that could have impacted the experience Avery had as a high school wrestler: State & Federal Laws: There is a safety net in place in the form of anti-discrimination legislation enforced by Office of Civil Rights. In addition, some states have legislation that offers more operationalized guidance. Schools & districts have a lot of flexibility and opportunity to improve the system. And Individual Education Plans (IEP), which are mandated for all handicapped students, leave open the option of developing a plan for athletic participation. But there are also problems: The onus is on families to compel compliance. Most states, including Oregon, have not passed laws that supplement the Federal ones. Guidance is not well publicized, for both the parents of the student and local school districts. And funding must come from the school district (usually gen. ed. funds). Athletic Governance at State & District Level: The good news is that Federal law stipulates that there is a contact person, and Equal Access Coordinator (EAC), in every district. The bad is that some school districts do not appear to have an EAC and it is not always easy to find out who that person is if they do. Although every handicapped student has an IEP, developing a plan for athletic participation is not mandatory. Wrestling Organizations: There is a meaningful rule, simply requiring constant touch rule, already in place. And there is excellent best possible practices guidance available from both USA Wrestling and the Oregon Wrestling Association. But Best practices advice is poorly publicized. The process for certifying coaches is inadequate; too much of the educational initiative falls on them; and coaches need more resources, e.g., one-on-one assistants. Non-Profit Organizations: There are two types of potential allies, blind orgs or disabled athlete orgs, but no organization appears to be focused on precisely these kinds of problems

INTERVENTION

SCI worked with the family to educate organizations on what was learned during the assessment process, rather than file a lawsuit.

SUSTAINABILITY

Ongoing - working with several interested groups to champion change in this area based on the research and assessment lead by SCI.