Juliet Moir: YES For An Accessible AHS
While there are many reasons to support a new AHS, today I ask voters to consider the barriers created by the current building’s lack of accessibility. I have been working as a public school physical therapist in neighboring towns for the past 14 years and have worked closely with students who have physical disabilities.
Consider this: The main entrance of AHS is not handicap accessible. Nor is the Fusco House entrance, nor is the entrance to Lowe auditorium. From the start —just entering the building— students with disabilities, particularly those who use assistive devices, are segregated from their peers, shuttled to a separate entrance. Because the building has been added onto again and again, the layout is inefficient and difficult to navigate. A single, under-sized and unreliable elevator services the whole 392,000 square foot facility and there are a mile and half of hallways to traverse. Many of the students with whom I’ve worked have had disabilities that affect their endurance (e.g., cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, cancer/chemotherapy treatment) and they cannot cover large distances in short periods of time. Arlington students with similar challenges would be faced with impossible decisions as they anticipate a long trek from class to class: Do they leave Trigonometry early or arrive at English Literature late? Do they stay until the end of Computer Science and lose precious minutes of lunch? Where’s the nearest accessible bathroom? These students lose instructional time and social opportunities because of Arlington High’s inefficient design.
The new design addresses these limitations. It prioritizes efficiency, placing departments in close proximity and making use of a common central spine to reduce travel time between classes. The building will have an accessible front entry and three well-located elevators. The project will also include: accessible routes to the bike trail; accessible bathrooms; speech enhancement systems in all classrooms; braille signage; properly sloped sidewalks/curb cuts; improved accessible parking; accessible seating throughout the auditorium; access to the stage and outdoor classroom; improved accessibility to athletic fields/bleachers; and acoustical ceiling tiles, panels and “quiet” floors.
People with disabilities are all too familiar with having to fight to gain access to buildings and spaces non-disabled people take for granted. Neighbors, please — let’s build a new Arlington High School and stop asking our disabled high school students to fight for access to their educational spaces. Vote YES for a new, more accessible AHS.