Sport programs for individuals with exceptional needs have evolved from early programs in Veterans Administration hospitals following World War II to acceptance into Group E of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) membership of sport associations serving athletes with disabilities (Clarke, 1986). While progress has been made in competition among elite disabled athletes in the post-school aged population, and in school-aged special programs like Special Olympics, there appears to be a void of programs for college-aged students with exceptional needs.
Roles of intramurals in higher education are by no means recent phenomena. Participation in recreational sports can and should be seen as one phase of a college student's total education. Over 35 years ago, Meredith, (1956), discussed principles and philosophy of intramurals, and how these parallel those of general education. While rich traditions of intramurals exist at many colleges and universities across America, similar programs for students with exceptional needs are few and far between.
Do Legal Mandates Exist?
Do colleges and universities have options for providing intramural activities for students with disabilities? Simply stated, no student is to be denied participation in an extracurricular program where it is offered to students without exceptional needs. Section 504 of PL 93-112, 1973, specifically states, "no qualified handicapped student shall, on the basis of handicap, be excluded from participation and be denied the benefits of, or otherwise be subjected to discrimination under... athletics, recreation..., other extracurricular, or other... program or activity to which this section applies" (U.S. Dept. Health, Education, and Welfare, 1977, p. 22684). Clearly stated is the concept of offering programs in the most appropriate integrated setting (Federal Register, 1977).
Involvement in Community Recretion... A Worthy Pursuit
Auxter and Pyfer (1989) discussed recreational sport opportunities for students with disabilities at different stages of life. PL 94-142 substantially handles school-aged children, but when these students become post-school aged their main options for participation are in community recreation services and specific handicap-only programs such as Special Olympics (Auxter & Pyfer, 1989).
One goal of special education is to provide an education that ultimately allows exceptional students to participate successfully as independent adults in their communities. In fact, during the past several years, the U.S. Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services (1989) has been strongly committed to fostering greater integration of students with exceptional needs into the community. The basic premise is that schools are responsible for preparing students for their lives after graduation. In relation to adapted physical education, this implies adapted physical educators must teach motor skills and reinforce behaviors that can be utilized in community activity programs.
Auxter and Pyfer (1989) stated the two main barriers preventing individuals with disabilities from participating in community recreation programs were lack of information regarding such services and physical barriers. However, needs and expectations of college students with exceptional needs appear to differ regarding participation in recreation programs. In Operation Mainstream Intramurals neither of these two barriers were factors which prevented college students from participating.
Planning to Mainstream
In 1987, California State University, Northridge (CSUN) elected to initiate a new mainstreamed intramural program. Because previous efforts to mainstream students with disabilities into the university intramural program had been unsuccessful, great care and effort were taken in planning this new program. Because adapted physical education faculty had offered instruction in various sport activities which would prepare students for certain intramural events, they were requested, along with Associated Students and Office of Disabled Student Services, to sponsor Operation Mainstream Intramurals. …