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Advancing the Human & Civil Rights of People with Disabilities in Illinois


Mary Kate

Picture of Mary Kate in her wheelchair in front of a pool.Despite losing the use of her legs in infancy to a neuromuscular disease, Mary Kate trained relentlessly to become an accomplished and valuable member of the Fenwick High School swim team in Oak Park, Illinois.

Mary Kate watched from the sidelines—not allowed to participate—as her team qualified and finished second in the Illinois State finals. The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) failed to provide any accommodations for swimmers with disabilities and used a scoring system that disqualified them.

Unwilling to accept this unfairness, Mary Kate sought the help of Equip for Equality. EFE joined forces with the Illinois Attorney General and sued the IHSA under the Americans with Disabilities Act, demanding that IHSA provide an avenue for its athletes with disabilities to participate in the state finals.

As a result of Mary Kate’s willingness to take her fight out of the water and into a courtroom, IHSA issued new guidelines that allowed her and six others to be the first swimmers with disabilities to participate in the state finals.

Now, all student athletes with disabilities have a chance to join their non-disabled peers and teammates at state championships.

Last updated: September 19, 2017

This website is made possible by funding support from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, both the Administration on Developmental Disabilities and the Center for Mental Health Services of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; and the U.S. Department of Education, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. The contents of this website are solely the responsibility of Equip for Equality and do not necessarily represent the official view of any of these agencies.

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