Ableism and Accessibility at Friends

Jamie Feldman, Staff writer

Stevie Wonder once said, “We need to make every single thing accessible to every single person with a disability.” While this may seem like a large task at hand, it is an absolute necessity. Society needs to accommodate people with disabilities because they deserve nothing less than to be able to accomplish everyday tasks with the same ease as their non disabled counterparts. No person should ever have the experience of missing out on something because the activity is not accessible to them. Disabled people are people before their disability. They should not be treated as less than human or less important than others. Society has made a great deal of progress on accessibility. Some systems of accessibility you have probably seen implemented already are the installations of ramps and elevators, 504 plans and extra time in schools for kids who need it, and braille being written on signs. Features such as these are extremely simple to install and make the day to day lives of diabled people so much easier. Hopefully, we can keep travelling in this direction of progress and, one day, make our world an accessible place for all just as Stevie Wonder and many others dream. As school is a large part of many people’s lives, let us look into the accessibility of our own school, WFS, to determine what is helpful and what can be implemented to improve the accessibility of the school for all. 

The first aspect of accessibility to look at is physical accessibility. Many of the student and faculty members seem to be in agreement that the level of physical accessibility in our school is good, but could definitely be improved. “I think some improvements and renovations could be made to make getting around to places in the school a little easier,” said Esther ‘24. Renovations to the elevators specifically in our school are a much needed update. One of the elevators in our school, located by the library, shakes and gets stuck in the shaft during usage. Along with the overall issues with the elevator, it causes students who are in need of the elevator to go out of their way to avoid it due to the fear that it will break down. The elevator located by the java nook runs much smoother than the other elevator. This elevator was one of the many things renovated in the school after the fire in the upper school, hence the fact that it runs much better. These elevators are located on opposite sides of the school, so it would be much easier and more accessible to have both of them working as opposed to having to travel across the building just to use the elevator. However, one major renovation that needs to be done in our school is building an elevator to reach the third floor of our building, where all of the middle school language and computer science classes are located. Currently, there is no way for any person that cannot use the stairs to access that floor. Along with things that need to be improved, our school also has many helpful features. Much of our school has a very wide and open floor plan, which makes it much easier to get around whilst using a mobility aid. Our school has also implemented the use of many wide ramps located next to all small staircases throughout the building. 

The other aspect of accessibility to examine is educational accessibility. The school has many programmes to help people who are disabled. From what I have been told by students and faculties partaking in these programmes, they are very helpful and accommodating, making learning much more accessible. “Teachers are very good at executing what needs to be done,” said anonymous. Teachers have proved to be very good allies to disabled students, refraining from singling them out in class and other inappropriate behavior. Education is a very important aspect of one’s life, which should not have to suffer due to a people’s differences. WFS does a good job of accommodating all of their students to make sure everyone receives a high quality level of education. “I’m allowed to listen to music and fidget and if I need to leave for whatever reason I’ve never been told no,” said Sonya Stankova ‘24.  The allowance of these actions, although seemingly minute to some, is very important to many neurodivergent people when they are understimulated. 

Compared to other schools in the area, WFS is a relatively accessible school in many ways. However, there are renovations that should take place in our school to increase accessibility. An important aspect of accessibility that WFS is very proponent of is education on disability and ableism in our community. WFS strives to be an inclusive place for all, and has organized many assemblies, group meetings, and other projects to try and inform and reduce ableism in our school. Something that has been suggested by students and faculty is a seminar where different people can voice their concerns and ideas on accessibility and ableism in our school. We need to listen to those with disabilities and try to accommodate their needs and implement their ideas into WFS. If everyone keeps their eyes and ears open, then the world can become a more unified and inclusive place for all.