My dad is in a wheelchair because he has Multiple Sclerosis (MS), and if he were to visit the school for any reason, to go to a parent conference or even to back-to-school night, he would only be able to go to a few of my classes because he couldn’t go up to the second or third floors, where most classes are located. The only elevator in our entire campus has been broken for around six months.
These issues may seem irrelevant, but they are impacting some students' ability to learn. Mr. McGuire’s class is taking place in the Cafeteria because he is unable to make it up the three flights of stairs to his classroom. Being in the Cafeteria makes it difficult for him to teach his class as normal. If we had a working elevator, this would not be an issue.
When asked about it, Mr. McGuire stated, “I would prefer to have access to my whiteboard and my LCD projector, but that is not the case.” He also mentioned that the Cafeteria can be noisy during the first and last periods of the day. While he prefers the solution of the Cafeteria to having to walk all the way up the stairs to his classroom on the third floor, it is clear that it is still not a perfect solution. He made it clear that he is grateful to have a solution, and it is mostly “little inconveniences” that can make the Cafeteria an issue.
He also referred to the other issues that the lack of an elevator is causing: “Some students with special needs depend on the elevator. There is a ramp way out near the gym that would give wheelchair access to the second floor, but it is quite inconvenient. There is no access to the third floor. Also, there are several other employees with physical impairments who depend on the elevator. I can also imagine that it is affecting the custodial staff as well. I suppose that they have to carry all of the garbage up and down the stairways.” Another problem caused by the lack of an elevator is the fact that it is very difficult to move furniture up to the second and third floors of the building.
Our principal, Mr. Steinorth gave some background on why the elevator is broken. He said: “[The elevator] was supposed to be upgraded as part of the ADA project on our campus, but unfortunately once the contractors started replacing parts, then other parts stopped working. It’s a problem with the age of the elevator making it not compatible with modern parts. Also, supply chain issues have made the ordering of some parts an ordeal.”
It is important to know that our principal, Mr. Steinorth, has been doing all that he can to get the elevator fixed. He has been calling daily and doing everything in his power to get this issue resolved. Right now, the district is not giving our school the resources that we need to make our school accessible.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (otherwise known as ADA) regulations require that public schools are completely accessible to people with disabilities. Our school is not. A person in a wheelchair or someone who has an injured leg cannot make it around our school. This is not only annoying and inconvenient for disabled people but also illegal. We could end up in a lawsuit if the district does not help us deal with these issues as soon as possible. This potential lawsuit would waste a lot of the school and district’s funding which should be going to more pressing issues, like fixing the elevator or supporting academics and clubs.
Ms. Youngblood-Jarman has recently undergone surgery and was out for a short time. When she came back, she was not able to get to her classroom since it was recommended that she not put extra strain on her body. It is a long and complicated process to get her a location to teach her classes. She has made it very clear that Mr. Steinorth is doing all he can to provide adequate accommodations, but none of this would be an issue if the district would give our school the necessary resources to fix our campus.
Ms. Youngblood also recalls that the district required all the staff on campus to watch a video about accessibility, which felt very ironic since they are not helping actually to make the school accessible for her. They are trying to spread awareness and talk about accessibility, without actually making any effort towards it.
According to Mr. Steinorth, the elevator “is believed to be complete now, but we are awaiting a state inspection to make sure that it is safe to use.”
Being the daughter of a disabled person, I see firsthand how difficult it is to navigate the world, especially when people are not considerate of your limitations. It’s amazing that in this country we have policies in place to make our schools accessible. Still, when issues of bureaucracy prevent them from being followed, it causes nothing but problems for everybody involved. We simply need to do better.