In another major step forward in the battle for inclusion of athletes with disabilities, the Los Angeles City Section, arguably the most prominent region in the California Interscholastic Federation, has created “an inclusive sports-level division for individual students with disabilities,” a move which creates a division of genuine competitive sports for students with disabilities. Those athletes will be allowed to compete in regular season and sectional championship competition, and for the first time in California wheelchair-bound students will also compete in sanctioned races.
As reported by the Los Angeles Times, the City Section is the only region in California to approve an inclusive division. Other states have already enacted such divisions en masse, led by Minnesota, Georgia, and Maryland, but the City Section may be the first to approach the issue on a regional basis, pro-actively addressing accessibility to competition before the state dealt with it as a whole.
“This is history,” Teri Hayden, coordinator of sports programs for the Los Angeles Unified School District’s adaptive physical education program, told the Times. “It’s opening a door for students with disabilities.”
That the LA Unified School District is largely responsible for this inclusive division has not been lost on officials. LAUSD is sometimes the subject of widespread criticism for a perceived lack of organization or concerted direction, which can lead to both administrative and legal issues.
Not this time, with the school district out in front of an inclusive movement that could have significant impact on future opportunities for disabled student athletes statewide.
“I’m elated,” CIF Executive Director Roger Blake told the Times. “They’ve already had an inclusive program going on. I hope the rest of the state will soon step up and follow the model of L.A.”