Schools Cited For Widespread ADA Violations
Federal officials are demanding action after an investigation revealed that the vast majority of elementary schools in the nation’s largest district are inaccessible to students with disabilities.
A two-year inquiry by the office of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara found that 83 percent of elementary schools in New York City are not “fully accessible.” Moreover, in swaths of the city that serve more than 50,000 elementary school students, there is not a single school that meets accessibility requirements.
Accordingly, Bharara said numerous kids with disabilities are left with no option to attend their neighborhood school.
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“The result is that children with disabilities and their families are being deprived of the countless meaningful and tangible benefits of being part of their own local school communities,” Bharara wrote in a 14-page letter to the New York City Department of Education’s general counsel.
The problems come more than 25 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Bharara noted that access issues aren’t isolated to older facilities. In one case, he said that a school elevator installed in 2000 was not in compliance with federal requirements.
So dire is the situation, Bharara said that one parent visited a local school multiple times each day to carry her daughter up and down stairs so that the child would be able to attend school near home rather than endure a “lengthy commute” to an accessible school.
The New York City Department of Education is reviewing the letter, a spokesman told The New York Times.
“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,” Harry Hartfield told the newspaper.
The letter from Bharara’s office dated Dec. 21 gives the New York City schools 30 days to respond with an “outline and timeline of the corrective actions the city intends to undertake.”