Not Handy for Handicaps



   I remember standing in the bathroom washing my hands, ready to have a blast at the cast party after a long, energy-consuming run of “Les Miserables,” when I turned to find former music teacher Shenelle Williams struggling to push a handicapped audience member into the thin doors of the high school bathrooms.

   I continued to watch the two struggle as the audience member tried to squeeze herself into one of the non-handicap accessible bathroom stalls. Of course, I was appalled. Then it dawned on me: the Pinewoods Upper Campus is not handicap accessible.

   Over the summer, Pinewood remodel the bathrooms to be handicap accessible, and it looked like we were on the right track when one of the top parking spots was made into be a handicap parking spot.

   At this point, I had felt reassured and proud to be part of a community who was making the efforts to improve their campus to be accessible to all citizens. I was later dismayed to discover the parking spot had been taken out and even more so when I discovered the parking spot was only ever intended to be temporary for the event of graduation.

   Recently I witnessed the parking spot be removed once again after the Pinewood Jamboree. There was little of me that was trying to understand the perspective of those who put in and removed the parking spot. Since it was completely doable to make a temporary spot how come it couldn’t be made permanent. The justification I was given was: it’s useless.

   “I could put the handicap parking sign up again I just don’t know what good it would do,” Principal Mark Gardner said.

   In a way he has a point, Pinewood does not have any students that are permanently handicapped who would use the parking spot, but to me it was the very principle it stood on that made the whole thing infuriating.

    Growing up with a brother with autism, I was keenly aware of the special-needs community and that included those not only with social handicaps but also physical ones. I witnessed first hand the cruelty shown to those with special-needs. Aren’t handicapped people stripped of so many opportunities already? Why should they continue to get less than they deserve?

   I, clearly, am not the only person who has recognized the rights of handicapped people. In 1990, congress enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requiring public places to become handicap accessible, including public accommodations. However, since the Pinewood Upper Campus is so old it was “grandfathered” in, President Scott Riches said, meaning that Pinewood is not required to make upgrades unless they plan on making other renovations to the campus.

“Typically how it works is when you do a major project is when you are to put in ADA accessible renovations,” Riches said.

   But shouldn’t Pinewood want to make the accommodations regardless of what is required?

   At Back-to-School Night, I witnessed a handicap parent discover that he couldn’t go visit his child’s math class because it was taking place in room 22 above the gym. I was told the parent later had a one-on-one conference with the teacher once they had realized the slip-up but couldn’t anyone have recognized this issue sooner?

   Regardless of one parking spot, I would hope Pinewood would start to think of others with special-needs even if those people aren’t necessarily prominent in the

Pinewood community.

   Riches said additional plans are on the way this summer when the quad will be be renovated.

   “We are going to put in a lift going from the upper halls to the quad area… and we plan to put in one if not more handicap accessible parking spaces when renovating the parking lot this upcoming summer,” Riches said.

   While I have been reassured the school is making plans to show greater consideration, I am also aware of the opportunities special needs people do not get for being the way they are, especially at Pinewood.