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Overview -- Supreme Court Ruling PGA Tour, Inc. v. Martin

May 29, 2001 -- The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that the Americans with Disabilities Act requires the PGA Tour to allow professional golfer Casey Martin to ride in a golf cart between shots at Tour events.

Allowing Martin to use a golf cart "is not a modification that would fundamentally alter the nature" of the PGA Tour, said Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who delivered the majority opinion.

Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, modeled on the Civil Rights Act's Title II, prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in places of public accommodation. By its "plain terms,"it prohibits the PGA Tour "from denying Martin equal access to its tours on the basis of his disability," said the Court's 7-2 decision.

"Someone as talented as Casey Martin being put through the ordeal of fighting all the way to the Supreme Court -- just for his chance to compete in a game where he is in the top .00001% of the competitors -- speaks to the discrimination happening every day to people with disabilities," said Center for An Accessible Society Director Cynthia Jones. "Casey Martin is Everyman -- a talented person with a disability, trying to compete in the world.

"America has wasted the talents of Americans with disabilities for decades because of the inability to see and use those talents," she continued. "It is time to move beyond this discrimination."

Martin's disability, Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber Syndrome, is a circulatory disorder making it painful to walk long distances.

The ADA's Title III says that "[n]o individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of a disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the privileges of any place of public accommodation. . . " Golf courses are one of the places specifically listed in the ADA's definition of "public accommodation," and the Court was not persuaded by the PGA's contention that golfers are not "customers" of the public accommodation but rather "providers of entertainment." Competing in the PGA's qualifying school "is a privilege for which thousands of individuals from the general public pay," said the Court, and playing in the tours is "a privilege for which they vie," said the Court.

Read the opinion


Related information on access to golf from Indiana University's National Center on Accessibility






Expert sources

From the Disability and Business Technical Assistance Centers:

Historical Context of the ADA

ADA definition of disability

Overview of law's structure

The ADA is changing the landscape of America -- commentary

"The ADA changed my life" -- personal stories

The meaning of "disability" under ADA

"A misunderstood law" -- commentary

The ADA Notification Act

Supreme Court ADA decisions:

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