By: Greg Bach, VP, Communications, National Alliance for Youth Sports
Gas prices got you ticked off?
Idiots thinking they can text and drive at the same time have you spewing obscenities?
Well, here’s something else sure to shove your blood pressure into the triple digits. Get this: In Pennsylvania a 7-year-old boy wanted to play in his local youth football program. Now, the child has ocular albinism, a rare condition – it affects 1 in 60,000 males – that renders him blind in direct sunlight and requires the use of tinted eye protection whenever he steps outside.
His parents informed the league that he just needed to use a tinted visor on his helmet to shield his eyes from all sides. A simple solution, right?
Well, believe it or not, the league slammed the door on that, saying they weren’t going to allow him to use a visor. Really.
Now, I’m pretty sure that tinted visors don’t provide unfair advantages and enable players – 7-year-olds
– to run faster or hit harder.
The league said they would permit sunglasses or goggles – because that’s what the rules they were following allowed – though the boy’s parents were rightly concerned those could be knocked off, putting their son in danger.
Apparently the league didn’t have specific rules in place regarding protective eyewear, so in those instances it uses the rules of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletics Association.
The PIAA uses that rule because when a player at the middle school, junior high or high school level suffers a concussion medical responders need to be able to see a player’s eyes without removing the helmet. And that makes a lot of sense at those levels, but not so much at age 7. Plus, think about this: on the rare chance this youngster did suffer a concussion medical people would not be allowed to remove his sunglasses or goggles on the field anyway to examine him because his eyes can’t be exposed to sunlight.
So why didn’t the visor get the league’s stamp of approval from the beginning?
Thankfully, the child’s mom didn’t give up and went in search of others with a few more working brain cells than this league’s hierarchy. She found them at the Justice Department, which ruled that the league violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to make a reasonable modification of its policies, practices and procedures to permit the boy to use a tinted visor.
I’m happy this youngster is taking the field and also thrilled that part of the settlement requires the league to develop and implement a disability rights policy, but it’s so far beyond ridiculous that it ever reached this point.
And it’s unthinkable how no one overseeing this program had a shred of common sense to recognize that this 7-year-old boy wasn’t in search of an unfair advantage.
He was simply asking for a chance to play.
Isn’t that what every child deserves?