Celebrating Access Today: Enforcing Accessibility in Youth Sports

November 24, 2015

Twenty-five years ago, with the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), our nation committed itself to the elimination of discrimination against people with disabilities.  In honor of the 25th anniversary of the ADA, each month, the Department of Justice is highlighting efforts that are opening gateways to full participation and opportunity for people with disabilities.  This month, we spotlight the story of a child named Brahm and how the Department of Justice’s work enforcing the ADA is improving full and equal access to youth athletics in Colorado.  Participating in athletic competition is a formative experience for children across this country, and children with disabilities are entitled to participate equally in youth sports.

Brahm at a Wrestling Tournament

Nine-year-old Brahm has bone dysplasia, also known as dwarfism, which makes him smaller and lighter than other children his age.  In the fall of 2013, when he was seven years old and weighed approximately 34 pounds, Brahm joined a wrestling club in his hometown of Colorado Springs, Colorado.  His doctor had cleared him to wrestle children of a similar weight.  Wrestling tournaments were run by Pikes Peak Wrestling League (PPWL), a youth wrestling league that serves approximately 4,000 children across the state of Colorado.  Initially, for the regular season tournaments, PPWL allowed Brahm to wrestle in the six and under age division, even though he was seven years old, so that he could wrestle with children of a similar weight.  Brahm’s parents explained that Brahm has a disability, dwarfism, and it would be unsafe for him to wrestle children in the eight and under division weighing up to 45 pounds.  When it came to the State Wrestling Championship, however, PPWL refused to allow Brahm to compete in the six and under division.  Consequently, Brahm left the tournament and did not compete.

The United States recently reached a settlement agreement with PPWL that will ensure that, in the future, children with disabilities like Brahm will not be excluded from PPWL’s events.  Under the agreement, which must be approved by the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, PPWL will adopt and publicize a disability nondiscrimination policy, including procedures for handling requests to modify policies for wrestlers with disabilities.  PPWL will also train employees on ADA requirements and invite coaches affiliated with PPWL and USA Wrestling Directors to attend this training, free of charge.  In addition, PPWL will pay compensatory damages to Brahm and report to the department on its compliance with the agreement.

Title III of the ADA requires public accommodations, including youth sports leagues like PPWL, to reasonably modify their policies, practices or procedures, when such modifications are necessary to afford their goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages or accommodations to individuals with disabilities and when such modifications would not fundamentally alter the nature of their goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages or accommodations.  For more information about the ADA, call the department’s toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 (TDD 800-514-0383) or access the ADA website at www.ada.gov.  ADA complaints may be filed by email to ada.complaints@usdoj.gov.

Updated November 24, 2015