Students in wheelchairs need to know whether a school’s bathroom door is wide enough. A disabled parent needs to know whether she can get to the auditorium for a parent-teacher association meeting. Students with hearing, vision or speaking difficulties should know whether there’s technology, signage and books for them.
Soon, they’ll finally have that information.
The NYC Department of Education is surveying every high school — a process that later will be done in middle and elementary schools — to determine which buildings are accessible to people with physical disabilities. The surveys will involve nearly 60 criteria. If they are done well, students and parents should be able to find out which schools meet their needs.
We hope the DOE will provide the survey information in a detailed and comprehensive way — and then create a plan based on its findings to improve school accessibility across the city.
Perhaps it could be made public on the DOE’s School Finder website, which enables students and parents to search by keywords.
Once that happens for high schools — hopefully in time for next fall’s high school selection process — the DOE should follow through and expand its efforts so parents and students can choose from among district elementary schools, middle schools or gifted-and-talented programs. Parents and students need more details to make informed choices.
As of the end of 2015, only 17 percent of city elementary schools were fully accessible, and six districts didn’t have a single fully accessible elementary school.
Beyond that, officials should use the data to determine how to make more schools accessible as quickly as possible. That’s an expensive process. The city can use the data to better allocate funds and find interim solutions until big fixes can be made. Only then will students and parents be able to access all of the city’s public schools without letting any disability get in their way.