The Historical Realization of the Americans with Disabilities Act on Athletes with Disabilities


  • Michael Cottingham University of Houston
  • Michael Carroll Troy University
  • Don Lee University of Houston
  • Deborah Shapiro Georgia State University
  • Brenda Pitts Georgia State University



The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 has been one of the most powerful tools used by persons with disabilities in the fight for access and equality. Significant case law demonstrates the impact of the ADA on disability sport participation and access, but little is known regarding how the ADA has impacted athletes with disabilities. Thus, the purpose of this study was to gain the perspective of elite athletes with disabilities who competed before and after the ADA’s enactment. Participants were interviewed, and the data were transcribed and analyzed. Findings indicated that participants generally felt physical barriers were most problematic before the ADA and improved greatly after the ADA. Economic barriers, social barriers, and barriers of legitimacy were challenging to athletes before the ADA, but views differed on whether these issues improved and to what extent improvement occurred following the implementation of the ADA.






Original Research