Growing But Still Limited: The State of High School Athletics Opportunities

By BlazeSports America intern Philip Cook

In the United States today, there are a limited but growing number of opportunities for young athletes with disabilities to participate in organized high school and club sports. Many students with disabilities are interested in extracurricular opportunities – including high school sports – yet most high schools across the country do not have organized sports in place that include students with disabilities. Fortunately, thanks to public pressure in recent years, several states have begun to consider including adaptive sport athletic programs.

This spring this issue received added attention when a Michigan father made national news for pushing to amend the age limit on high school athletics to ensure that his son – a 19-year-old rising senior – would have the ability to continue playing football. (More on that story is available here:’-age-limit-rules-and-student-with-disabilities/) After doing intensive research, BlazeSports identified fifteen states that offer opportunities for high school students with disabilities to participate in organized sports. These fifteen states include Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Washington.

The two most common school team sports that are available for students with disabilities are track and field and wheelchair basketball. This is not surprising given that these are two of the easiest to accommodate students with disabilities. Ohio became the latest state to add wheelchair championships for track and field athletes with disabilities. On June 8, 2012, the Ohio High School Athletics Association made the decision to add wheelchair championships to its state track and field meet beginning in 2013. Though only fifteen state high school federations allow youth with disabilities to participate in school organized sports, hopefully one day soon the other thirty-five states will follow suit.


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