By Cleve Bryan
TRENTON, N.J. (CBS) – With the national Special Olympic games drawing to an end in New Jersey this week, Governor Christie signed legislation to ensure schools provide equal access to sports for students with disabilities.
“Everybody should have the opportunity to experience the things that I experienced as a young man in this state and that my children are experiencing,” says Christie.
The measure requires that schools allow special needs students to try out for teams and if selected all reasonable accommodations should be made so the student can fully participate.
“Every single person has value, every person can make us better,” says state Senate President Steve Sweeney, whose daughter has Down syndrome and participates in the Special Olympics.
Sweeney sponsored S2079 which says not only must all students be afforded full access and accommodations to physical education, but it allows for school athlete associations to partner with the Special Olympics to create teams and leagues where mainstream and disabled athletes can participate together.
Joe Hale from Westville, New Jersey won several medals for swimming at the 2014 USA Special Olympic games and says more efforts should be made to encourage people with special needs to play sports.
“I’m having fun, meeting new friends that’s what it’s about- competition,” says Hale.
His mother Linda Hale is encouraged by the new legislation after her son missed out on the chance to play in mainstream sports because of his disabilities.
“I think it’s great to level the playing field more, they’re as normal as everyone else is to be honest with you.”