WASHINGTON — PONY Baseball Inc., a youth baseball and softball organization, has reached an agreement under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to ensure that players who are disabled, including those who are deaf or hard of hearing, have an equal opportunity to participate in PONY’s baseball and softball leagues, the Justice Department announced today. The settlement resolves a complaint by a PONY player who is deaf.
“Playing baseball is a summertime joy for kids in this country. I am pleased that today’s agreement opens up PONY’s baseball and softball leagues for children with disabilities,” said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.
The Department’s investigation was triggered by a complaint from the parents of Justin “Pono” Tokioka who alleged that PONY denied their son access to a sign language interpreter during a baseball tournament in violation of the ADA.
The settlement agreement resolves Tokioka’s complaint and provides nationwide relief. Among other things, PONY has agreed to:
Modify its rules to specifically allow players to use sign language interpreters during games. Provide, in conjunction with PONY’s local leagues, sign language interpreters for players who are deaf or hard of hearing. Make reasonable modifications to PONY’s rules and practices to allow players with disabilities an equal opportunity to participate in PONY’s baseball and softball games. Appoint an ADA coordinator who will be responsible for ensuring that PONY responds properly to requests for auxiliary aids, including sign language interpreters, and requests for reasonable modifications. Have PONY’s ADA coordinator and board of directors trained on the requirements of title III of the ADA. Pay Justin Tokioka $30,000 in damages.
“Children who are deaf, or have other disabilities, are entitled to participate equally in youth sports,” said Ed Kubo, U.S. Attorney for the District of Hawaii. “Youth leagues should be on notice that their policies and practices cannot limit the participation of children with disabilities.”
PONY Baseball Inc., headquartered in Washington, Penn., has 3,500 baseball and softball leagues throughout the United States. Approximately 450,000 children participate in those leagues.
People interested in finding out more about the ADA or the agreement can call the Justice Department’s toll-free ADA Information Line at 1-800-514-0301 or 1-800-514-0383 (TTY), or access its ADA website at http://www.ada.gov.