Teen Realizes Dream To Compete Alongside Teammates
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
April 25, 2006
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND--Tatyana McFadden came in first place in the 1,600 meters and 800 meters to score for her team during a high school track meet last Wednesday.
It was no surprise, really. After all, the Atholton High School sophomore won a silver medal in the 100-meter and a bronze medal in the 200-meter dash two years ago at the Paralympic World Games in Athens, Greece.
What made this event unusual, and especially satisfying for the 16-year-old McFadden, was the fact that the wheelchair athlete was able to compete for her school alongside her running teammates for the first time.
With the help of the Maryland Disability Law Center, Tatyana and her family fought their school district for two years to get them to allow her to compete. They claimed that the district's refusal violates Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in federally funded programs and activities, such as public schools.
Earlier last week, a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction, forcing the school to allow McFadden to compete at least through the rest of this season. A court will have to decide later whether the school -- and others across the state -- would have to allow wheelchair athletes on a permanent basis.
In the past, McFadden had been allowed to compete at track meets, but only against other wheelchair athletes, and in entirely separate events. Usually this meant racing alone and against herself.
Officials were still trying to sort out the details of how her scores would be tallied right up to within a couple of hours of the first event. They finally decided that she would compete alongside -- but not against -- the other racers. Her scores were be tallied in the wheelchair category, and she could earn one point for each race.
McFadden finished the meet with four points for her team, helping it finish second overall.
"This is about doing the one thing I have always wanted: getting to run with my friends and teammates," McFadden said Wednesday. "This is so meaningful because I've waited a long time for this."
"It isn't about winning today. It's about getting the opportunity."
"Teenager in a Wheelchair Reaches a Racing Milestone" (Washington Post)
"Thanks to injunction, teen is off to the races" (Baltimore Sun)
"McFadden shakes, rattles and rolls new course" (Philadelphia Daily News)