Op Ed: How Can Roosevelt Be More Accessible?

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Anja H., Staff Writer

As students roam the halls of Roosevelt Middle School in River Forest, Illinois they are rushing to get to classes on time, slamming lockers. All except for one. Struggling to open the door in her wheelchair she finally reaches the elevator and… it is broken again. Roosevelt Middle School administrators should address the gaping holes in school accessibility for all types of disabilities. Through the complete lack of true accessibility, some students are elevated to succeed while others are dredged down daily. 

To begin with, UIC’s Campus Accessibility Study found at uic.edu guidelines and conducted the accessibility study on Roosevelt’s various classrooms and common areas. According to the measurements recorded for the eight grade girls restroom, the door to the inside of the restroom is inside the parameters of the study as the study requires a door width of at least 32 inches, which has been tested out on a majority of wheelchairs and is proven to be accessible . Inside the restroom however is where the metaphorical ball drops. The study notes that there must be at least a  “5×5 area inside the accessible stall” Roosevelt’s one accessible stall only measures 4 by 2 inches, which excludes people with larger wheelchairs and other mobility devices along with sensory disabilities such as claustrophobia from using the restroom. Exiting the restroom is a challenge for people using motorized wheelchairs and those without limbs, as the doors cannot open with a closed fist and are quite heavy which is challenging for wheelchair users to operate. Heavily stated by the study, all doors need to have automatic door buttons on them which is something no doors at Roosevelt employ creating issues for students not being able to open the doors. As for classroom accessibility, as stated by the study, all rooms must have either a “T shaped path” or a 5 foot circle for a wheelchairs turning radius.” This is particularly noticeable in Roosevelt’s art room, as the turning radius to get to materials doesn’t comply with the study. 

In regards to other forms of accessibility, leading disability expert Cal Montgomery has these suggestions to make Roosevelt more accessible for those with other types of disabilities. Over SMS messaging he relayed, “No fluorescent lights, and pictographs on the signs for cognitively disabled people are just a few things on the list.” Fluorescent lighting is not accessible to students who have suffered from head trauma and to those who have sensory disabilities. In addition, pictographs on signs help people with intellectual disabilities know where places are at a level they can understand. Roosevelt Middle School can no longer claim they are committed to excellence, as they stay complacent in the devaluing of students with disabilities, due to the lack of accessibility in their educational institution. Make some changes, or your excellency will vanish in an instant.