[FRC Blog] Accessibility Updates for FIRST Robotics Competition

If you watch “Wheel of Fortune”, you may have noticed that they now always show the letters guessed and if they were in the puzzle or not.

Small acknowledgements to accessibility that improve the experience for those that many of us may overlook.

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Isn’t there officially a rule against drive coaches bringing a chair/stool? I’m glad that no one has been a jerk about that to you.

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This is so welcome. We have two mobility impaired students in FTC that will be doing FRC next year. I hope that Houston will open more doors. The one that’s ambulatory missed a match due to exhaustion walking all the way down to Carver.

I’m currently at Michigan FTC Champs and it has been amazing NOT to have to worry about accommodations for our student who uses a chair. Not only did they set aside seating for the team to sit together, accessible pit placement, the queuer removed the top of the driver station (obstructs view) before our team even got to the field. Hats off to the PDP and hosts for making accessibility a priority.

If anybody needs help with the QuadStick mouth joystick- we have two years of programming it!


There is. However, there are ways around it… and it sounds like he knows how to use those properly.

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I think the rule you’re thinking of is H303 (in the 2022 rules, and the analogous rule in other recent prior years), that says “The only equipment that may be brought to the ARENA and used by DRIVE TEAMS during a MATCH is listed below.” But one of the items listed is “special clothing and/or equipment required due to a disability,” and I would expect that “disability” can be a pretty broad term.


To this point in 2017 one of our drivers got the approval from the head ref to be able to use a wooden box to stand on (it was the robots platform on our cart) for his “disability” (being short) and it was just enough for him to actually see the field. Another funny thing is we were the last quals match at North Star because of a replay and he forgot it at the driver station :sweat_smile: so we got to stare at it all throughout playoff picking…

The good old “Handicapping Ramp”
Also known as the regional truck handicap ramp.
So much fun to move them around when they are missing wheels, responsable for so many union laborers with pinched fingers.

Here’s a picture of all the ramps at Houston from all the regional trucks.


This can vary because we were told that being short is not a disability and that our drive coach could not stand on a crate. Though she didn’t need it to see the field, rather to be at the level of the driver’s ear so he could hear her.


It’s so strange that short students are disadvantaged for no reason. Stools up to 1ft in height should be legal (or to bring someone up to average height, either way).


Whoever told you that, is wrong.

That said, it’s not universally wrong. There are short people who are not disabled; there are short people who are disabled. The difference comes down to, essentially, “Is this person within X% of the average height for their age group?”–or something like that. Or, in other cases, “does this person have a known genetic issue that prevents them from attaining average height?”

If you have someone who is below average height, they may have talked to their doctor already… if they haven’t and they want to be on the drive team, they may want to. It’s really hard to argue against “doctor says I have a disability”.

That said, standing on a stool or crate may land under a different part of H303. “Regardless of if equipment fits criteria below, it may not be employed in a way that […] introduces a safety hazard […]”. (Blue Box) “Examples of equipment that may be considered a safety hazard in the confined space of the ALLIANCE AREA include, but are not limited to, a step stool […]”

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This, but with slightly different reasoning.

I’ma have to disagree with you here. Arguing in a vacuum whether being short is a disability, and if so what height crosses that threshold, seems rather fruitless. What makes being short a disability (and most other disabilities for that matter, I think) is that it prevents, inhibits, or necessitates some accommodation for someone to participate/function at the same level as everybody else.

In the case of FRC drivers’ stations, shortness is a disability when it becomes difficult or uncomfortable for someone to see over the wall. And by that reasoning, anyone who needs e.g. a platform should be allowed to use it. However, in another context like FTC with much shorter walls, the same person would not be considered disabled due to shortness. On the other hand, in a situation that involves looking through a window 5 feet off the round, some 40% of the population would be debilitatingly short.

The criteria you mention make sense in an unspecific context of e.g. getting a sort of certificate of disability from a doctor, but they don’t make sense in the topic of providing accommodations.


I’ve been to hundreds of FRC events and I’ve only seen the ramp used once at Battlecry in 2019.

Same here. Seen it used at one event, specifically the 2013 Boilermaker Regional, specifically for one of 4791’s drivers who used an electric wheelchair.

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Thanks for posting a picture of the current ramp, after seeing that I do believe I’ve seen at least one of those in the past, though it was possibly someplace out of the way at a previous CMP. Definitely a terrible design that looks very dangerous to move and store. However I seriously doubt that FIRST intends to replace existing units with the new design that could be strapped on top of case 6/7/8 and stay there unless it was needed to be deployed.

Regarding the use of a stool for those of less than average height, the fact that it is ruled a potential safety hazard has always annoyed me. However I got much more annoyed after listening to a presentation on equity at partner conferences many years ago.

The first slide of the power point showed 3 kids of different heights standing at a fence with only the tallest of them able to see the sports ball game over the fence (designed to block the view for those without a ticket).

The next slide showed what equality looks like, with each student standing on a box of the same height. Now the middle height student can also get a view of the game while the shortest one still can not see.

The third slide shows what equity looks like, the tallest person w/o a box, the middle one on a single box and the 3rd on two boxes so that all three have their heads at the same height and able to look over the fence.

But can a FRC student on the drive team use something to stand on so they have equitable visibility? No and the answer is still no, despite all the talk and handwaving about DEI that has been going on since that presentation.


There should be a fourth frame to that comic, where the barrier is taken down so no one needs assistance!

I see there are still needs to be more conversations about drive station visibility/height accessibility.


I’ve only queued five official FRC events, but I’ve had to handle the beastie @FletcherS7 shows above. This one had wheels, but was still rather unwieldy (small wheels, small base when standing up, heavy, lots of pinch points), especially for an accessibility device. And of course, there was only one, so we had to keep moving it from red to blue every few matches. Fortunately, we had a loading dock when I’ve helped pack the truck, but it still was just sort of stuck in an empty space rather than having a real home for transport, which probably contributes to the broken wheels. Still, beats not having it or having to jerry-rig something when needed.

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One of my least enjoyable discussions I ever had to have in FIRST was in 2011.

Our driver had a preexisting medical condition that made it impossible for them to safely lift the robot. This was a patented “invisible disability”.

Our best operator and human player were both not disabled but neither had the physical strength to lift the robot with me the coach.

We went back and forth with FIRST to try to get them to allow us an extra individual who would only be used for helping me get the robot on and off the field. Literally only used for picking the robot off the cart, walking the 2 steps to get it on to the carpet and then I could push it. We were told that an extra person is not a reasonable accommodation, even if it was someone who was not associated with the team but would be willing to help while doing a different role at the event (such as a field resetter). When we asked why we were basically told that composing a driveteam who can safely get the robot on and off the field is “part of the rules”.

I had to sit down with team leadership (mentors and students including the driver) and the decision was made that we would rather have a single cohesive drive team for our single regional at the time, as opposed rotating between our first and second choices for each position to give me someone who could help move the robot. This was a decision I disagreed with but was out voted.

Years later the technician role was created, the exact thing we were requesting. I am glad the position now exists but I still wonder what FIRST would do if there was a team composed of students who were physically unable to move the robot on to the field in the way FIRST wants.


That is so frustrating to hear. I can understand the desire to not have that extra team member out of fear of the slippery slope, that we did eventually get down w/o injury.

However I’m certain that there would have been several field volunteers who would have happily assisted with the lifting. Yes, they have jobs to do but it would take just a few seconds before and after each match.

Did you ask if it would be possible to have an alliance partner’s help. Again I’m pretty certain that you wouldn’t have had a problem finding someone each match that was willing to help.

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At the time I didn’t have the connections or resources I do now.

We were told that volunteers had specific instructions to never touch a team’s robot (kind of true). We were also told using a member of another team to help us get the robot on and off the field could get both teams a yellow or red card at the head referee’s discretion due to violating the drive team rules. Now I think they meant specifically asking someone to use their drive team badge to come with us and help us on the field and not rotating and asking our alliance partners each match for help but once again I am older, wiser and more willing to ask questions than I was as a college freshman.

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We are facing that problem this year. Most of our upperclassmen are petite females without the upper body strength to physically lift an over 100 lbs robot. It would be horrible to say to a student “you can’t be in the drive team because we need someone stronger”
I wonder if there was a team made up of exclusively disabled students, would they not give any accommodations towards lifting the robot? I think they would let you have a special “lift team” in a heartbeat without a second thought.
But, I think this works it’s way back to the argument that the entire process of getting the robots on and off the field is fundamentally flawed.