Op-Ed: The Disappointing Lack of Disability Accommodations

 

Due to an accident last week, I have found myself in a walking boot and, following, an ankle brace to get around. I do not particularly like either, as they are both uncomfortable, but they make sure I have the ability to walk, so I wear them.

Since the accident, I have been using the elevators here at Malden High School, and have been nothing but disappointed by frivolous things; such as the elevator being bumpier of a ride than most; the floor button options inconsistently working, leading to multiple elevator trips; the buttons outside the elevator occasionally; et cetera.

On Wednesday, April 27th, and Monday, May 1st, the Boyle house elevator broke down. This is the worst of the elevator issues because I get to and leave school through Boyle, and the cafeterias are in Boyle. Because the houses do not connect on the first floor, at the minimum I had to hop up and down the stairs on one foot, or wait and hope the elevator would be fixed so I could get from place to place. The elevator getting stuck elicited fear in the safety mechanisms, though, so I ended up slowly making my way up and down the stairs on my good leg. Getting down the stairs, I had to rely on my classmates to help make sure I did not fall and hurt myself worse.I am not permanently disabled, and even after not even a week of not being able to walk properly, the accommodations have continuously failed me. This is especially upsetting, imagining how often accommodations made to help disabled people fail them as well.

This is not an issue specific to Malden High School, either: towns like Salem have older buildings that almost all have a step to get inside, without a provided ramp, as they cannot be added because the buildings are too old. Streets with an abundance of potholes make it hard for people with wheelchairs and mobility issues to traverse. There are a myriad of examples of how our society continues to fail our disabled citizens.

There are groups, organizations, and laws in place to help fix these disparities. The Americans with Disabilities Act, more commonly known as ADA, is a law put in place in 1990 that explicitly prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. The World Institute on Disability (WID) was the group that brought the law to life and continues to fight for the rights of disabled people. Despite these organizations' efforts, there continues to be a lack of conversation around the topic, leading to issues like these not being addressed.

Although I am only temporarily set back, I am seeing the world through new eyes. Everywhere I go, I see issues in accommodations; even just walking down the street, I am astounded by how many disparities exist. Even with groups like the WID working to help fix this, there is a profusion of smaller issues that build up and one organization cannot solve this on its own.

It is not the elevator breaking down for a day that makes me mad, but instead the elevators, the lack of curb cuts, the endless potholes, the too-steep ramps, the uneven ground and every other invisible barrier building up.

This is not a one-fix problem and has been a problem for as long as time, but every little movement towards equitable solutions is much-needed progress.

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