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Feds Push Schools To Improve Accessibility

Feds Push Schools To Improve Accessibility

An entrance to PS 110 is pictured in New York. (Barry Williams/New York Daily News/TNS)

More than 30 years after the Americans with Disabilities Act became law, many schools remain inaccessible to students with disabilities. Now, federal officials are calling for change.

The U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Education recently released a webinar detailing recommendations for school districts to make their facilities more accessible.

The move comes in response to a Government Accountability Office report issued almost four years ago, which found that the majority of public school districts were not physically accessible to students with disabilities.

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Investigators identified problems with doorways, steep ramps, inaccessible playgrounds and restrooms and more. And, according to the GAO report, many schools were not serving students with physical disabilities regularly due to barriers.

The 22-minute webinar narrated by Diane Perry, an architect at the Justice Department, highlights common accessibility problems and how to address them. The video outlines expectations for every component of the school experience including accessible parking, walkways and doorways as well as standards for classrooms, restrooms, play areas, auditoriums and more.

“It is critical that students with disabilities, and family members, friends, neighbors, teachers and staff with disabilities, are able to access school buildings for learning as well as extracurricular activities and community events,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department is committed to using all available tools, including enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act, to increase accessibility in school buildings.”

In addition to students and teachers, government investigators noted that school accessibility affects the community at large since buildings are regularly used for voting, as emergency shelters and for other purposes.

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