ADA compliant, but not so convenient


Sydney Cooper , Editor-in-Chief

About two weeks ago, I had surgery on my foot. Nothing major or life threatening, but it did leave me with a cast for four weeks and then a boot for another three. I had prepped with crutches, gotten myself a knee roller for around the house, and used every precaution that the doctor gave me for having the fastest recovery.

The one thing that I really did not prepare myself for was how difficult it was to get around school. Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires access to those with permanent and temporary disabilities, I’m able to get around. Nevertheless, challenges remain.

Since I am a peer tutor, I normally sit in Mrs. Amy Heis’s room during first period where I help other students complete their work. Since I am now on crutches, I cannot get to the elevator that leads to all of my other classes due to the stairs being my only option in that wing of the building.

Yes, I realize that there is a lift by the staircase that leads to the rest of the floor.  However, that isn’t accessible to everyone and only works with a key that is given to the students by a faculty member. For me, it was not possible to gain access. So, I had to switch my first period classroom to the basement for the time being.

Normally it is already a trek to get from the basement to second period in the Psychology room on the third floor without the added weight of crutches. However, when the elevator is on the completely opposite side of the third floor from where you need to go, walking the entire school length is challenging.

Even though that is only one example, I have to duplicate this walk 5 times a day to switch classes that are on different floors. Imagine my concern when I had third period history on the third floor, to have to walk the entire length of the school to get to the elevator, just to have to walk the entire length of the second floor to get to the classroom that is almost directly underneath my history classroom for focus period.

Since this is only my experience, I asked another high school student, senior Megan Poynter, who explained to me, “The school has been great helping after all of my surgeries, but there are a lot of steps in hard places.” and continued by saying, “The only issue I have had is with the power outage. If we had to move classes, I would not have been able to get to and from classes due to the elevator being out. This was one of the only concerns I have had and especially for our students in wheelchairs, it was impossible to switch floors.”

Overall, I believe that Highlands is average for accessibility.

I realize that the school has an incredibly old structure and it would take an enormous amount of funding and time to make any changes to the building.I also don’t want to sound lazy or ungrateful for the resources that the school does have though. I also am thankful for the elevator, automatic doors, and the lift by the cafeteria which are all great resources for students.

However, this experience has opened my eyes to the challenges of those with disabilities.

While our school is ADA compliant, I believe there are ways for it to become more “ADA convenient.”

We have what we need for those with physical disabilities, but I think that some aspects can be improved. The inclusion of ramps and another elevator on the other side of the building are only two ways that the school could become more convenient for our students.

I am encouraging our faculty, staff, and administration officials to think about the impact of those with disabilities differently, as I have. Highlands is not a school that strives for mediocrity, but one that tries to be the best for all students. So, why can’t this be the next step?

Let’s do all we can to help those that are already struggling, and leave our school better than we found it.