Illinois High School Athletes With Disabilities Get Expanded Opportunities This School Year

After convening an ad-hoc committee of school administrators, the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) has decided to launch a state finals pilot program for student athletes with disabilities for the 2012-2013 school year.

The pilot program for cross country, bowling, swimming and diving, and track and field will supplement IHSA programs already in place.

"We've been actively engaged, listening to stakeholders, advocacy groups, parents, student athletes and others to determine how to enhance opportunities for our student athletes, all of our student athletes," said Marty Hickman, IHSA executive director.

The two-year pilot program gives IHSA the flexibility to continue its evaluation of statewide interest and participation in these programs while also giving these students additional opportunities to compete in parallel events at IHSA state finals.

"By piloting separate, high-profile events for our student athletes with disabilities, we hope to spur more interest statewide," Hickman said. "As more and more student athletes participate in our programs, and as they start to do so at younger ages, the level of competition naturally rises, giving way to more meaningful experiences for our athletes."

IHSA plans to partner with advocates for athletes with disabilities to study programs implemented by other states.