Accommodations don’t cut it for disabled student

By Sophie Lichtenstein, Contributing Editor

After almost three years of battling with administration to get the disability accommodations he needs, senior Samuel Vogel is fed up. 

Vogel uses a wheelchair to transport himself around school, making the elevator an integral part of his education.

Until this year, Vogel was not able to carry around his own elevator key, and he still has to turn in the key at the end of each day and pick it up again the next morning.

The elevator, however, is long overdue for maintenance, and according to a sign posted inside of the elevator, its certificate of operation is overdue by two years. 

The elevator has also broken down on multiple occasions, including on Sept. 23. 

On that day, after his second block class on the third floor, Vogel went to the elevator to ride down to the second floor for his next class. After multiple attempts to open the elevator, Vogel had to walk down the stairs to arrive late to his next class, a security guard carrying his wheelchair. 

”It is just insane that this happens all the time,” Vogel said.

In January, an inspector was at school to look at the elevator, and Interim Principal Lisa Spencer promised Vogel an update.

Vogel has not received additional information since then, and the elevator certificate of operation has not been renewed.

Spencer declined requests for an interview.

In addition to a wheelchair, Vogel’s condition makes his need to use the bathroom much more urgent. 

Although he has a pass that allows him to leave class whenever necessary, Vogel cannot open the second and third floor bathroom doors on his own, forcing him to ride the elevator down to the nurse’s office to use the restroom there. 

“Since the bathroom doors are not made accessible, I have to interrupt class… to open the elevator, then go to the first floor and use the clinic restroom,” Vogel said. “This takes ten to fifteen minutes out of my day and my learning time.” 

Vogel is used to the ease of being able to go to the bathroom without the hassle of riding the elevator up and down after two years of online school. 

“I loved online because I could use the restroom whenever I wanted to and I didn’t have to make a whole show of it,” he said.

To reduce time out of the classroom, he gave suggestions to administration to make the doors more accessible. 

To hold the doors open, magnets were installed, but they did not solve the problem, as the doors would also often be shut by students, and Vogel still had to “open the door while pushing my wheelchair up the big bump between the doorway.”

Now, the doors are held open with a door stopper, which is “a short-term solution, not a long-term solution,” Vogel said. 

The second floor doors to each wing of classrooms are inaccessible to Vogel as well.

He has been promised the installation of buttons to open doors automatically, but no one knows when, and he is skeptical that they will ever be installed. 

Vogel claims that the school is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and is now starting to bring in lawyers to speed up the accommodations process.

Vogel said he wanted to handle the situation in a “civil manner,” but as a senior, he is “not taking this anymore.”

“My goal is to be able to have future disabled people be able to come to PBHS feeling welcomed and included here and (they) should not have to have the frustrations that I have experienced,” Vogel said. 

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