For many students, navigating the middle and high school admissions process can be overwhelming because New York City’s choice system allows them to apply to dozens of schools.
But for students with physical disabilities, it can be overwhelming for the opposite reason: Very few schools are completely accessible to them.
A coalition of advocates hope to raise awareness about that gap by hosting a panel discussion and “speak-out” Thursday evening where middle and high school students with physical, vision, and hearing impairments will talk about their experiences making their way through the city’s admissions process.
“A lot of these students end up with really, really limited school options,” said Maggie Moroff, a disability policy expert at Advocates for Children, and who is helping coordinate the event.
In recent months, advocates convinced the city to begin collecting more data to give families a better sense of exactly how accessible each building is, down to its water fountains and cafeteria tables.
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“We had schools that are listed as partially accessible, but there’s no accessible bathroom,” Michelle Noris, a member of the Citywide Council on Special Education, told Chalkbeat in March. (Her son has written about his experience navigating the high school admissions process with a disability, and will be one of the student panelists.)
But there is far more work to be done, Moroff said, pointing to a scathing U.S. Department of Justice report which called the city’s accommodations for younger students with physical disabilities “inexcusable.”
“We want others to know about [the issue] and keep the city committed to it and paying attention to it,” Moroff added.
The student panel discussion and speak-out — where members of the general public are invited to share their own stories — is being organized by two advocacy groups, Action for Reform in Special Education (ARISE) and Parents for Inclusive Education. It will take place Thursday from 5-7 p.m. at the Manhattan School for Children. For more information, click here.