New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie recalled the big part organized sports played in his youth as he signed a bill Thursday guaranteeing disabled students equal access to school athletics.
The new law requires public schools to ensure that disabled students can try out for and participate in their sports programs.
"Playing sports, whether it was Little League baseball or basketball or varsity baseball in high school, was a key part of me growing up, and I learned some really valuable life lessons from those years about teamwork and leadership, discipline and hard work,'' Christie said. "Everybody should have the opportunity to have those experiences.''
The signing came on the last full day of National Special Olympics competition in Mercer County. Christie was joined by Senate President Stephen Sweeney, who sponsored the bill. A Special Olympics soccer team and their coaches were in the audience.
"Just because someone has a disability doesn't mean they don't have value,'' said Sweeney, who first ran for office after his daughter, Lauren, was born with Down syndrome. Lauren Sweeney, 21, is playing soccer in the Special Olympics.
Sweeney said the events show that those with different abilities should have opportunities to compete.
He urged other states to take a look at adopting similar measures.