ADA tees it up

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May is the 10 year anniversary of an intersection of sports and employment legislation, the case of Casey Martin vs the PGA.

For those not familiar with the case, Casey Martin was an accomplished collegiate golfer (and a one-time teammate of Tiger Woods at Stanford) who wanted to take his talent to the next level, that being the PGA.  There was just one catch, Casey had a disability that kept him from walking the course while playing (he had a condition that made his leg extremely fragile), so he needed a cart.  Carts are allowed at the NCAA and some other pro tours, but not the PGA, the “major league” of pro golf.  So he asked for what he thought was a reasonable accommodation, to be able to use a cart while playing.

The PGA said no way, walking was a critical part of the game.  That lead to a lawsuit filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act, as far as I know the only one filed against a professional sport.   Martin had all the necessary documentation showing he had a legimate condition that met the qualifications under ADA.  The PGA thought the use of a cart was not a reasonable accomodation in that it would drastically  alter the sport.  The use of a cart would be an unfair advantage to Martin.   They had 2 of the biggest names in golf, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, giving depositions against having to accomodate Martin.

Well, in a 7-2 desicion, the Supreme Court held that the PGA had to accomodate Martin by allowing him to use a cart.  All of the doom that the PGA was predicting  if they were forced to accomodate Martin never came to happen.  Casey won one tournament in his brief career and was out of pro golf in a few years.  The flood of requests for carts that the PGA predicted never came about.  In fact since then, they have had one request and that was for a heart transplant patient who used the cart only for a short time.

This history lesson is to point out that reasonable accomodation will usually not bring about the demise of an organization and collapse of Western Civilization.  Look long and hard at how you evaluate any accomodation requests and pick your fights wisely.

For more information on the legal battle, see the site that ESPN has for the case.

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One Response to “ADA tees it up”

  1. Donna Rogers Says:

    “Pick Your Fights” exactly. This is a very good story that really illustrates the positive points of the ADA and reasonable accomodation. Some things are just meant to be.

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