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Paraplegic Can Coach on Field

May 3, 2000

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A high school baseball coach who uses a wheelchair won the right to instruct his players on the field as part of his settlement Wednesday of a discrimination lawsuit.

Victor Barrios, the paraplegic coach, had been banned from the field during games. He also will be paid $10,000 by the California Interscholastic Federation.

``I’m just happy that I’ll finally be allowed to do the job I was hired to do _ coach baseball,″ Barrios said.

During the 1999 season at Westminster High School, some umpires restricted Barrios from going onto the field because his wheelchair supposedly slowed the game and posed safety concerns.

Barrios was confined to the dugout for eight of 13 games played by the Westminster Lions. From the dugout, he was forced to holler to his players when he wanted them to advance to another base or stay.

``Yelling it out, the whole other team knows, it defeats the whole purpose,″ said Barrios, who was also barred from the field during pitching changes.

The lawsuit was filed against the CIF and Orange County Baseball Officials Association. Barrios said the ban violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Barrios, 27, coached baseball for four years at Magnolia High School, another CIF school, without objection. When he moved to Westminster High School in 1999, umpires told him he would have to remain in the dugout. He’s now back at Magnolia High School in Anaheim.

``No one disputes that CIF should be concerned with safety. But the law, recognizing that society has biases about individuals with disabilities, requires us to challenge our assumption and examine the facts of each case,″ his lawyer, Laura Diamond said.

Barrios will use a portion of the settlement money to buy new uniforms for Magnolia High School’s three baseball teams.

CIF lawyer Andrew Patterson could not be reached for comment. He said earlier the CIF was in favor of the disabled participating as coaches.

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