Thursday, April 26, 2012

ADA Challenge to Requirement that Blind Runners Wear "Black-Out Glasses" in Triathlon

See this story from CNN, which begins:
A legally blind athlete is suing three triathlon groups over a rule that makes him and other vision-impaired runners wear blackout glasses -- leaving them temporarily sightless -- in a controversial effort to "level the playing field.'' 
The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan by Aaron Scheidies, a 30-year-old athlete. Scheidies says the rule violates the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. 
Having a legally blind person compete in the running portion of a triathlon with blackout glasses "poses substantial danger to not only the competitor but those around them,'' the complaint says.
As I read the article, the folks who host the triathlon rank blind competitors separately from all other competitors.  They require anyone with limited vision who wishes to be ranked in the blind category to wear black-out glasses so that everyone ranked in that category has the same level of vision.  (Again, that's just my understanding from reading the article and complaint.  I'd be interested to hear more if my understanding is wrong.)  What's not clear to me from the article and complaint is whether Scheidies wants to be ranked in the blind category, despite his residual vision, without wearing the black-out glasses, or whether the triathlon administrators will totally bar him from the race if he does not wear those glasses.  If it's the latter, that would seem pretty clearly to be a violation of the law.  If it's the former, the case is much harder, even though the policy would still seem to me an ignorant one that should be abandoned.

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