By Sugee Kim
A legally blind athlete filed suit against three organizations that govern the sport of the Triathlon, over a rule that requires all vision impaired runners wear blackout glasses during the running portion of the triathlon.
The plaintiff, Aaron Scheidies believes the rule is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
The blackout glasses is an attempt to level the competition for partially bind athletes and completely blind athletes so that both may compete in the same category, according to a statement from the International Triathlon Union. Scheidies argues this is discrimination against the blind and visually impaired athletes competing.
The lawsuits, which were filed Wednesday morning in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, are aimed at the USA Triathlon, International Triathlon Union, and 3-D Racing, LLC a Michigan Limited Liability Company, according to the complaint.
Scheidies, championship-winning athlete, has about 20% of his vision remaining. He has been losing sight for most of his life after being born with a hereditary eye condition that slowly deteriorates the central vision, his website said.
Scheidies’ lawyer, Richard Bernstein argues that the attempts at giving partially blind athletes and completely blind athletes equal conditions to race are unreasonable.
“Taking away the little vision someone has left by making him or her wear black out glasses is dangerous, absurd and undoubtedly illegal, “he said. “It is certainly no accommodation.”
The complaint says the defendant’s enforcement of the blackout glasses rule to lead to “denial of equal access to athletic competition”, and thus a “second-class citizen” treatment that can cause embarrassment, humiliation, harassment, and emotional distress to the those wearing the glasses and competing.
“My two experiences in New York City having to wear the “blackout glasses” were the most humiliating and scary times of my life,” Scheidies said. “The thought of having to wear those glasses [again] makes me want to hang up jersey and shoes and call it a career.”
The U.S. Triathlon and 3-D Racing did not return emails and phone calls seeking comments.