Intro to Adaptive Sports

For downloadable Guidelines PDF: Introduction to Adapted Sports 

Table of contents
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The ADA prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment, State and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities and transportation.

An individual with a disability is defined by the ADA as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.

ADA Title II: State and Local Government

Title II requires that state and local governments give people with disabilities an equal opportunity to benefit from all of their programs, services and activities.

 2004 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 2004

Requires public schools to make available to all eligible children with disabilities a free public education in the least restrictive environment appropriate to their individual needs.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs or activities, public or private, that receive federal financial assistance. Section 504 has provided opportunities for children and adults with disabilities in education, employment, and various other settings. It allows for reasonable accommodations such as extracurricular athletics.

Requirements: reasonable accommodation, program accessibility, effective communication, and accessible new construction and alteration.

IDEA and Section 504 Regulations specify that public education agencies must provide the following:

  • Opportunities for students with disabilities to participate in regular and general PE classes
  • Services to give students with disabilities an opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities equal to that of other students

Policy Considerations

  • Equipment use policies
  • Facility use policies
  • National Physical Activity Standards
  • Nutrition policies
  • School wellness policies
  • Transportation policies

ADA Definition of Disability:

An individual with a disability is a person who:

  •  Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, or
  • Has a record of such an impairment, or
  • Is regarded as having such an impairment

The ADA Amendments Act greatly expanded the meaning and interpretation of “disability” under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

  • Focus is on making accommodations and avoiding discrimination
New ADA Guidelines

On March 15, 2011, new ADA regulations became effective. Among the new regulations are:

  • Fitness Equipment: accessible routes and clear floor space
  • Swimming Pools: in general, at least two accessible entry/exits and wading pools must provide sloped entry
  • Play Areas: must contain accessible ground and play components, routes, surfaces, and ramp and transfer system
US Department of Education

Guidance on Extracurricular Sport for Students with Disabilities

In 2013, the Office for Civil Rights issued a Dear Colleague Letter (found here) to clarify:

  • Schools are required to provide students with disabilities equal opportunities to participate in school’s extracurricular activities– including club, varsity, and intramural sports programs
  • Schools can provide mainstream programs, adapted athletic programs, and allied or unified sports participation opportunities for students with disabilities.

Physical Activity Guidelines

The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommended that children and adolescents with disabilities should do 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily.


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