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Boy With Wheelchair Cannot Join Basketball League, Judge Rules
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
October 23, 2002

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS--Seven-year-old Colm Williams will not be playing in the local youth basketball league because his wheelchair might be a safety risk, a federal judge ruled this week.

U.S. District Court Judge Douglas Woodlock threw out the case, filed on the boy's behalf by the Disability Law Center, against the Wakefield Basketball Association.

Williams tried to register with the association last year and was given a jersey to wear. But an official with the league later told Williams, who has spina bifida, that his wheelchair might injure other players. Then the official asked him to return the jersey.

The law center filed the suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act, claiming the association had discriminated against Williams because of his disability.

The association tried to settle the suit by starting a regional wheelchair league, along with offering to sponsor the boy on a local team and pay transportation costs. His family refused the offer.

"He's a skilled, athletic young boy who wanted an equal chance to play basketball with his peers," Stanley Eichner of the Disability Law Center said of Williams. Eichner called the judge's decision "very disappointing".

Attorney David Gallagher, who represented the basketball association, said he was happy with the decision because it supported the association's position.

"But we're unhappy because we wanted to work out an arrangement where the kid could play," Gallagher said.

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