CHSAA agrees to improve access for athletes with disabilities

March 28, 2023 / Athletic Administration
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado recently resolved a discrimination complaint under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) against the Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA).

The complaint related to a student-athlete with diabetes who was disqualified from participating in an event at a state championship swim meet.

The Department of Justice received a complaint from the family of a high school swimmer, who has Type 1 diabetes, after the student was disqualified from swimming in an event at the 2021 state meet for having adhesive tape covering a continuous glucose monitor that he wears to monitor his blood sugar.  Minutes before the start of the event, the head referee saw the piece of 2×2-inch adhesive tape covering the student’s continuous glucose monitor and disqualified him from the race.

CHSAA is the primary governing body for high school athletic activities throughout Colorado.  It has 368 member schools across the state.  It hosts state championships and other competitions and events for boys’ and girls’ sports and other activities.  The 2021 state swim meet was covered by CHSAA’s constitution, bylaws, and swimming-specific rules.

Under the ADA and its implementing regulations, entities like CHSAA are required to make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures when necessary to avoid discrimination on the basis of disability unless the modification would fundamentally alter the nature of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations.

To resolve the complaint, CHSAA agreed to take several steps to address how it will respond when student participants with disabilities who are participating in CHSAA-sponsored activities, or their coaches, seek modifications of the rules for those activities:

  • Clarify in its activity-specific rules that students with disabilities may participate in CHSAA-sponsored activities while using adhesive tape on medical devices if they provide medical documentation;
  • Adopt an internal procedure for evaluating requests from students with disabilities for reasonable modifications of CHSAA’s bylaws or the activity-specific rules, with such requests promptly evaluated by CHSAA Assistant Commissioners;
  • Amend CHSAA’s bylaws to make clear that a student with a disability, or their coach, can seek an on-the-spot reasonable modification from a referee at games, meets, competitions, or other CHSAA-sponsored activities, and that the referee can grant such a request if it is readily apparent that the medical device is intended to address a disability;
  • Make reasonable efforts to notify schools, coaches, students, and referees of these policy changes to CHSAA’s bylaws and activity-specific rules; and
  • Provide training for CHSAA employees, contractors, agents, and volunteers on the requirements of the ADA.

The agreement covers all activities subject to CHSAA’s rules and bylaws.

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“All students with disabilities deserve the same opportunities to participate in high school sports and activities as students without disabilities,” said U.S. Attorney Cole Finegan, “We are pleased that CHSAA has agreed to adopt policies that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

The agreement is not an admission of any violation or liability by CHSAA.