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
This is awesome! I don't know if I just saw this, but people in the disability community are good lifehackers.ReplyDelete
What an amazing young man! It must be so frustrating for people in wheelchairs when they run into preventable obstacles.ReplyDelete
The ADA is very much the point here. I think what Arthur did reflects well on his energy, creativity, and leadership, but it reflects poorly on his school. First, they allowed him, essentially, to foot the entire bill for those automatic doors. What about splitting the cost, since even the ADA might not stretch far enough to require all the doors be changed? Second, why didn't the social studies teacher say something to Arthur, or on the video, about the fact that equal access IS a legal requirement, not an act of kindness or a personal goal of just one high schooler? I find it a little extra upsetting that the Governor honored the whole thing. As Governor, he's legally responsible for public schools meeting their responsibilities. It seems cynical to me for them to not just honor Arthur, but to present what happened as some sort of model. I know this must sound ugly and pedantic, but there really is a very real connection between the personal and the political. And equal access really is a right, not a privilege, and not a personal achievement. If we don't stand up for that, then a lot of the rights disabled people rely on can be more easily demoted and ignored.ReplyDelete
While I agree with you mostly I also disagree with you. The ADA does not require automatic doors, yes they set standards for them but they are legal requirement. Before complaining about who should pay, or what words should be used think instead of how this young man came up with a way to raise the funds necessary to install automatic doors. School budgets across our state have been cut over and over again, schools have to decide do we put in automatic doors or pay the salary for an additional teachers, computers, lab equipment, etc when the doorways already meet the minimum standards set out by the ADA. Doorways only have to be so wide, so much distance between when there are double doors, that they can be pushed or pulled with no more then 5 pounds of physical force, or have turnstiles at a certain height, etc. Remember that the ADA sets out minimum standards, as do all federal agencies, if a city or state wants to set higher standards they can. He didn't just raise money, he educated his fellow students in what it is like to live physically disabled in a world not designed for it. Who knows maybe one of them will be the one to make it a legal requirement that all doors in and out of public building be automatic. So don't gripe about it, this young man deserves all the praise in the world and just keep educating people. Personally I would love to have automatic doors everywhere, it certainly would make my life easier but we are living in a world where to many of our public institutions have to make hard decisions between what is truly needed and wouldn't it be nice to have choices.Delete
You are right that automatic doors specifically might not be a requirement ... just doors that can be opened easily. I think what bothered me was that there was no mention in the story anywhere of the school's responsibility even being considered. No evidence that part of Archer's learning process might have been exploring the ADA requirements and whether the school district could maybe do part of what he wanted. I those things happened, it would be nice to know about it.Delete
The fist thing that struck me was Wow. no automatic doors. My high school has an automatic door and I have taken it for granted. Now when I see that blue button, I will realize even in this age of ADA they are not guaranteed. Good job Archer Hudley! You demonstrated the advocate and innovator inside people with disabilities, a part of us that is often forgotten.ReplyDelete
My son's high school HAD an automatic door opener on the front door until they decided to LOCK all the doors and removed it because of the "security," so if we want to have an automatic door we need to go to the back of the school and fight with all the school buses. AND this is the high school with a program for students with physical disabilities serving our whole county.ReplyDelete
Uh, okay then. At my high school the doors are locked during the day but you press a button and the front desk lady unlocks the automatic door(only door they will open during the day). That doesnt seem right especially considering there are multiple students for whom an automatic door is needed.Delete