The Americans with Disabilities Act is a civil rights law which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. It requires that public facilities, such as schools, be accessible to disabled individuals. However, despite the act being signed into law over 25 years ago, a recent federal investigation found that 83% of New York City’s public schools are not fully accessible. Not only that, 6 entire school districts which together serve over 50,000 students didn’t have a single accessible school.
In one case, a parent had to visit the local school multiple times a day to carry her daughter up and down the stairs so she could attend class. In other cases, children with mobility disabilities were forced to travel to further away schools. “Requiring elementary students with disabilities to travel extensively at the beginning and end of each school day-a condition which is not imposed upon their peers-can impose particularly onerous physical demands on these children,” wrote US Attorney Preet Bharara in his letter to the New York City Department of Education.
Bharara has given the city thirty days to submit a “timeline of corrective actions that will remedy this unacceptable state of affairs.”
Harry Hartfield, a representative for NYC’s Education Department, said that they are committed to increasing the accessibility of their schools and have set aside $100,000,000 to do so. “Our goal is to ensure that all our students have access to a high-quality education, and a student’s disability should never get in the way of their access to a great school,” Hartfield told reporters.