Issue 81 and handicapped accessibility
To the Editor:
While there are numerous reasons to support Issue 81, the bond issue to fund renovations of CH-UH’s middle and high schools, I would like to highlight one very important aspect: handicapped accessibility.
Clearly, our district does a fantastic job of educating its students, sending scores of graduates to first- and second-tier universities every year, and its extracurricular offerings are extensive and impressive. Our schools also meet the needs of every student regardless of physical limitation, abiding by the laws and requirements to provide all children with free, appropriate public education. But the physical structure of our buildings hinders the ability of the schools to meet the physical needs of those students with mobility issues, including those with physical and/or developmental disabilities and students (and staff) with acute, medical issues, such as healing from back or leg surgery, as well as disabled parents and grandparents who wish to participate in or view school programs.
Due to the piecemeal additions and renovations of the past 100 years, the high school currently has 27 different floor levels,. There are service elevators, but they do not connect to every part of the building, forcing disabled students to navigate from one section of the building to another, wasting time and energy. To access certain areas, such as the high school’s instrumental music department, custodians are needed to lift wheelchairs up a short flight of steps. This is obviously time consuming, potentially dangerous and likely humiliating.
Individuals with developmental or physical disabilities often feel singled out and isolated from their peers, a feeling heightened during the teenage years when friendships are of utmost importance. Time between classes should be for sharing social moments, not traversing from one elevator to another. Individuals unable to use stairs will already be traveling more slowly than able-bodied walkers, and even if such students have IEPs that allow for extra time between periods, they are nonetheless missing valuable instructional time.
Now imagine the parent or community member who wants to participate in a project, perhaps discussing their career or sharing a wartime experience with a history class. But that class is nearly unreachable due to the series of stairs and disconnected service elevators. That sure doesn’t make you feel welcome or your participation valued.
Our schools are technically meeting the needs of all students, regardless of physical limitation. But we can do better. We owe them better. If you believe in equal treatment and opportunities for all, then supporting Issue 81 is a no-brainer.
[Dawson works for a county agency that works with those with disabilities.]