Montana marathon resolves discrimination case

Joe Stone, marathoner
“I’m really happy it’s open for people with disabilities.” – Joe Stone

People with handcycles and wheelchairs will have the opportunity to fully participate in the upcoming Run Wild Missoula Marathon, under a legal settlement recently approved by the Montana Human Rights Bureau.

“I’m really happy that it’s open for people with disabilities. I will eventually be participating in it,” Joe Stone, an individual with quadriplegia who brought the case, told the Missoula Independent.

Stone first brought his concerns to the event’s sponsor, Run Wild Montana, in 2012. The nonprofit responded they would be unable to accommodate him in 2013, but would make changes the following year.

The changes did not leave Stone satisfied. Specifically, Run Wild opened the race to only eight cyclists, although more than 6,000 runners annually compete in the race.

Moreover, Run Wild imposed a 12 mph speed limit for wheelchair and handcycle users for the race’s final 11 miles, and a requirement that they yield the right-of-way to foot runners. In addition, they must check in to the race 15 minutes beforehand and avoid passing runners at certain intervals.

Stone brought his complaints to the Montana Human Rights Bureau, which appointed an investigator to review the race’s policies. The investigator found “reasonable cause to indicate that discrimination may have occurred” and that Run Wild “had not provided enough compelling information” to justify any of these restrictions, according to the Missoulian.

Under the agreement [PDF], signed off on by the Bureau on January 22, requires the marathon to lift all of the restrictions.

Since the agreement is a legal settlement, there is no formal legal opinion that can be used as precedent in similar cases. Nonetheless, disability rights advocates applauded the agreement.

“It absolutely helps advance the cause…,” Curt Decker, executive director of the National Disability Rights Network, told Runner’s World. “This settlement, and the fact that there were costs given to the plaintiff, would certainly be a powerful tool for someone to challenge another event that singled out athletes with disabilities for restrictions.”

A video about the ruling from KPAX 8 can be seen here.

This video may begin with a commercial which was not chosen by or for the benefit of Rooted in Rights. | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana


Disability Rights Washington, the publisher of Rooted in Rights, is the designated protection and advocacy agency in Washington, and a member of the National Disability Rights Network.