Baseball league erred in stranding deaf player
The National Association of the Deaf has filed a federal complaint on behalf of a Kauai boy against PONY Baseball.
RARELY has any sports organization tripped over itself like the PONY baseball league did in the bungling of a 10-year-old deaf boy's needs
. The league deserves every bit of scolding it has received for blocking his father from the dugout as an interpreter -- an extreme case of enforcing the rules of the sideline far beyond their purpose.
The blunder occurred five months ago when Justin "Pono" Tokioka was denied a qualified interpreter -- father and Kauai County Councilman James Tokioka -- to sit beside him in the dugout at a state tournament in Hilo, where the boy was a member of Lihue's all-star team. The state director for PONY -- ironically, an acronym for Protect Our Nation's Youth -- said only three coaches are allowed inside the dugout, and James Tokioka would have been the fourth.
In refusing to distinguish between a coach and an interpreter -- a league committee actually voted 4-1 against a rules change proposed by the boy's parents -- league officials brought on an eventual chorus of outrage. The father was relegated to a roped-off area 15 yards from the dugout during the tournament, out of his son's sight.
The stupidity gained national attention this month when the National Association of the Deaf filed a complaint with the Justice Department alleging a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Baseball legend Cal Ripken Jr. wrote a letter to the boy, and the Honolulu City Council and Kauai County Council prepared resolutions to ensure accommodations for the disabled.
Senator Akaka called young Tokioka "a true warrior." Senator Inouye called upon PONY Baseball to "step forward, acknowledge its error and then take reasonable actions to demonstrate that if a young person, with or without a disability, works hard enough and perseveres, there are no limitations or obstacles." The league can start by reconvening its rules committee.
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