Settlement reached with Illinois sports association

two young children in wheelchairs on a running track
Illinois Athletics to be More Inclusive

For the first time, athletes with disabilities competing in track and field, swimming and diving will be allowed to earn points for their high school teams in Illinois, according to a settlement announced June 24.

In 2012, Equip for Equality and the Illinois Attorney General’s Office sued the Illinois High School Association, the governing body for most of the state’s high school sports program.

Under the IHSA’s previous policy, athletes with disabilities could compete against each other in separate events in each of these sports, but could not compete alongside their peers and earn points for their high school teams. The lawsuit asserted that this framework violates the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to accommodate athletes with disabilities.

Under the new framework, as reported by the Chicago Tribune, the IHSA will hold dual championships for track, swimming and diving events.

One of these will continue the existing framework, where athletes with disabilities will compete among themselves, but their scores will not be counted toward the high school’s point total.

However, athletes with disabilities will also now be able to compete in the regular events as well. The number of points a team can receive from the performance of athletes with disabilities will increase in relation to the number of athletes with disabilities competing in the competition, according to the Chicago Tribune.

“This settlement is an important step forward in our continued efforts to ensure people with disabilities have equal access and opportunity in all areas of life,” Attorney General Madigan said in a news release. “I am hopeful that this agreement will inspire more student athletes with disabilities to join their schools’ sports program and that the IHSA will continue to add more opportunities for these students as they proceed with implementing the terms of the settlement.”

Also under the settlement, the IHSA will create an annual 5K race, consisting of both a wheelchair and an open division. The IHSA must revise its accommodations policy, comply with ongoing monitoring by the Illinois Attorney General’s office, and providing training on ADA compliance.

Equip for Equality and Disability Rights Washington, the publisher of Rooted in Rights, are part of the federally funded protection and advocacy system and members of the National Disability Rights Network.