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City Council Joins Others In Supporting Deaf Ball Player's Rights
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 31, 2006

HONOLULU, HAWAII--The Honolulu City Council has adopted a resolution banning discrimination against people with disabilities.

The resolution called on the city's parks and recreation department to require all sports organizations and leagues that use the parks to adopt rules to ensure that reasonable accommodations are given for participants that have disabilities.

The action is similar to that taken by several Hawaii counties and cities since the case of 10-year-old Justin Kapono "Pono" Tokioka came to the public's attention last year.

The National Center of the Deaf and the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against PONY Baseball/Softball, Inc., alleging that the organization is discriminating against the boy under the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act by denying him access to a sign language interpreter.

Pono had been playing on the Kauai league with his father, Jimmy, in the dugout interpreting instructions from team coaches. But when it came time for the state tournament, the Tokiokas were told his father amounted to an extra coach in the dugout, in violation of PONY rules.

The family has argued that Pono's father only acts as an interpreter. They have offered for the mother to interpret, and have suggested that the league come up with a separate interpreter. Other teams in the league had no problem with Jimmy Tokioka in the dugout.

The national organization, however, refuses to allow any 'extra' adults in the dugout.

The action has drawn the attention of disability advocates, politicians, and even famous Baltimore Oriole Cal Ripken, Jr., who wrote to Pono to encourage him to always try his best.

In October, Challenge Maui and Handicapped Advocacy Works of Kona filed complaints with Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim and with the Justice Department, saying PONY discriminates against the deaf player in violation of federal anti-discrimination law.

Pono and his father were on hand last Wednesday to thank the Honolulu council for their support of people with disabilities, the Star-Bulletin reported.

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