Archer Hadley had a problem with his high school: It wasn't accessible to him. The 18-year-old, who has cerebral palsy and attends Austin High School in Austin, TX, couldn't yank open the front doors from his wheelchair. Foul weather made the situation particularly miserable. This is his story, told in a mini documentary, one of 15 recently honored at The 2015 White House Student Film Festival. This year's theme: The impact of giving back.
So here's what struck me about this story, particularly today on National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day. Archer and his parents could likely have sued the school to make it more accessible. Per the Americans with Disabilities Act, last revised in 2010, school buildings must be designed to provide students and staff with disabilities an equal opportunity to benefit from services; exclusionary design is prohibited. Buildings constructed prior to the ADA (1990) are not exempt, and school districts are supposed to retrofit facilities. That said, districts are not required to take action that could result in undue financial and administrative burdens.
So there's that. And then there's the let's-do-this spirit that Archer had, raising the $5000-plus needed to install each automatic doorway—and enabling his classmates to ride a mile in his shoes.
As I've learned from raising Max, having cerebral palsy regularly means figuring out alterna-ways of doing things: holding a spoon, holding a crayon, brushing teeth, pulling up pants, going up and down stairs, pushing a button, even just getting into bed. Often, therapists have shown Max adaptive techniques. Sometimes, Max just figures it out, knuckling an overly firm button in an elevator or doing a little wiggle dance to manipulate his pants. This is not surprising to me—it's a basic human drive to work around challenges—but as his mom, it's plenty awesome to see.
Archer Hadley also figured out another path, raising both money and awareness. Props to him for showing everyone the way.
Image: Screen grab, The Archer Hadley Story