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White House orders schools to open more athletic opportunities to disabled students

In a groundbreaking announcement, the White House recently declared that school districts need to open up extracurricular sports opportunities to students with disabilities. The statement came in the form of a letter from the Department of Education that said schools need to make reasonable modifications to sports to allow disabled students to participate.

The accommodations can be made in a variety of ways. For instance, having a light that flashes at the same time the starting gun goes off in sports like track and field can help deaf athletes participate. Additionally, the announcement doesn't say that schools have to set aside places on varsity teams, but rather that they can't exclude disabled students from picking up their gear, whether it's used soccer cleats or secondhand golf equipment, and trying out. This is a big step forward, advocates say.

"It's really affording them access to terrific social situations that will hopefully break down some of the barriers and discrimination we've seen in the past," Lindsay Jones of the Council for Exceptional Children told USA Today.

In the announcement, the Department of Education pointed a 2010 report from the Government Accountably Office. The research showed that many students were not given the opportunity to participate in school sports. 

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