The Supreme Court made it clear this week that the federal law prohibiting discrimination against disabled people in public places extends even to the rules of professional golf.
Pro golfer Casey Martin, who argued that he has an impairment that prevents him from walking long distances, won his case that the PGA Tour cannot bar him from using a motorized golf cart between shots. The court decided Mr. Martin gained no advantage by not walking, since he already "easily endures greater fatigue" because of his disability.
This ruling helps reinforce the implementation of the Americans With Disabilities Act. But does it mean anyone can demand special accommodations to join the PGA Tour, or any organized sport for that matter? No. The court merely looked at whether the PGA could reasonably modify its rules to allow Martin to play, without changing the essential nature of what it offers - competition among the world's best golfers. Hitting the ball, not walking to it, is the essence of golf, it rightly concluded.
The 1990 law has required many individuals and institutions to adjust to its rules, sometimes at great cost. But it also has deepened the pool of talent available to society by lowering barriers that might keep individuals from more fully developing their interests and abilities.
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor