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WASHINGTON (CBSMiami/AP) — The U.S. Education Department has announced a new directive sure to be a real game-changer. They are telling schools they must include students with disabilities in sports programs or provide equal alternative options.

The move is being hailed by parents in South Florida.

“I am thrilled because all children need to feel included,” said Alexian Hueso, the Program Services Manager for Parent to Parent, a support group for parents of children with disabilities.

Hueso has a 14 year old son with mild autism. She said what is needed is a change in mindset on how people perceive children with disabilities.

“I think the shift is slowly happening, but it will take time,” said Hueso.

The new directive is reminiscent of Title 9 which dramatically led to the expansion of athletics for girls and young women. Schools will be now be required to make reasonable modifications for students with disabilities or create parallel athletic programs.

Jansil Duran Hueso-Newson, 14, knows what it’s like to feel isolated. He has cerebral palsy and remembers how frustrating it was when he could not take part in field day, playing sports at his school. In fact, they made him scorekeeper.

“I was happy for my classmates but I would have liked to participate,” said Hueso-Newson

Other parents like Nicole Ravinet say it will take teamwork. Her daughter Sofia has a visual impairment.

But her P.E. teacher came up with a solution so Sofia could take part in playing ball.

The teacher found a ball that made a sound so Sofia could use her hearing to know when it was being thrown towards her.

“The P.E. teacher was honest to say, I don’t know what to do, but let’s figure it out,” said Ravinet.

The Miami Dade School District and Broward School District both say they are already integrating students with disabilities in sports. At Braddock High School in Miami they have a boy on the football team who is blind.

The Education Department emphasizes this will not guarantee students with disabilities a spot on competitive teams.  Instead, they say schools cannot exclude students based on their disabilities if they can keep up with their classmates.




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