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Hartford marathon foundation accused of discrimination against those with disabilities

HARTFORD– One woman is accusing the Hartford Marathon Foundation of discriminating against those with disabilities. This comes after Marisa Boasa competed...

HARTFORD-- One woman is accusing the Hartford Marathon Foundation of discriminating against those with disabilities.

This comes after Marisa Boasa competed in the half marathon last year and says she was denied certain accommodations.

Now Senator Saud Anwar is introducing a bill to resolve the issue.

Boasa says she just wanted to start an hour early before the race started so that she had time to finish with the other racers.

“How come we have accommodations in the workplace, why can’t we have reasonable accommodations under the ad within the athletic community,” asked Boasa who presented her case in front of the Hartford’s Commission on Disability Issues during a special meeting.

Boasa claims the HMF did not provide enough accommodations for her to complete the run. She says she requested an hour head start before the beginning of the race but was denied which she says is unacceptable.

Boasa explained, “There are no reasonable accommodations for those with disabilities in Connecticut, especially for those like myself that run in ankle-footer or maybe someone who has prosthetics or someone who might have physical immobility. The handicap athletes that are with the wheelchair, they’re given 15 minutes, but even that might not be a reasonable accommodation.”

Boasa was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in august of 2018 but is still fighting every day.

FOX61 sat down with officials with the HMF to learn why she was denied the extra time.

Elizabeth Cowles said, “We have to think about what it means for people who live and work in that community, we have a 6-hour time limit on the marathon right now, if we were to change that or extend that you know that would take a lot of different parties to come together and understand that impact and to be honest with you the communities around do not want to be shut down.”

Cowles, who works with the foundation, says it’s a safety issue. She says although road closures start around 7:00 a.m., it’s not the same throughout the entire course and to change start times means changing the entire event.

Cowles explained, “It’s not as simple as saying you know the start line is open and you can run the roads because they are not going to be on a closed course and they are not going to have the services available to them.”

Cowles says it services like a medical team, who can be ready at a moment’s notice that would be affected by an earlier start time.

The HMF says it does provide other types of accommodation such as a guide for runners with disabilities.

Boasa says she will be introducing a bill alongside Senator Saud Anwar to help provide extra time to competitors with varying abilities.

We reached out to other organizations that cater to those with varying abilities and the Achilles International-- Connecticut sent out a statement that says:

Here in Connecticut, Achilles athletes participate in many Hartford Marathon Foundation events throughout the year, including the Eversource Hartford Marathon, Half Marathon & 5K. In 2019, Achilles Connecticut had a team of 35 athletes with a variety of disabilities (and volunteers who serve as guides on the course) who competed on race day. **Please note that Marisa is not a member of Achilles International-Connecticut.

Achilles Connecticut has a very collaborative relationship with the Hartford Marathon Foundation, who welcome and support athletes with all types of disabilities who train to compete in their events. As the Connecticut Chapter Leader, I work closely with HMF race staff months in advance to ensure the safety of our team of athletes as well as that of other runners on the course. As our mission is about empowerment and inclusion, our athletes are expected to follow race policies just like any other runner. It is important to understand that there are a variety of factors involved and the efforts of many people are required to accommodate the unique needs of each individual member. This effort must be well thought out and planned far in advance together to facilitate the safest possible experience for all, and we understand there may be limitations. HMF has information on their website event pages to help educate any athlete with a disability on race policies, regardless of their membership in our organization. https://www.hartfordmarathon.com/disabled-athletes/

We have had great experiences throughout our partnership encouraging more runners with various types of disabilities to participate in HMF events with us. In addition to the annual marathon events in October and a number of road races throughout the year, we also work closely with HMF on the Achilles Connecticut Hope & Possibility® 5K & 10K, for which they provide race operations and production support. https://www.hartfordmarathon.com/achilles-ct-hope-possibility-run/

The Hartford marathon says it will be looking to resolve the complaint.