For many Portlanders, it's vitally important that public schools meet the promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires buildings to be accessible.
Many buildings lack accessibility. For instance, some schools don't have elevators for a person in a wheelchair to access upper or lower levels. Many restrooms are too cramped, science classroom sinks are too high and fire alarms are missing appropriate strobe lights and horns. Many schools are 80 to 100 years old. They simply were not built with a contemporary concept of accessibility.
As a result, significant areas of our schools are inaccessible to many students, meaning that they are shut out of a multitude of educational experiences. 13% of PPS students are enrolled in special education programming.
However, the bond proposal by Portland Public Schools would correct that. The proposal, listed on the ballot as Measure 26-193, provides $10 million explicitly for changes that will make schools accessible. This is part of a $324 million budget for health and safety improvements district-wide that also would ensure removal of lead and asbestos and mitigation of radon gas.
"Access to schools means access to an education for students, access to employment opportunities for teachers, and inclusion in our communities for family members and visitors to our schools," said Bob Joondeph, Executive Director of Disability Rights Oregon.
"Ensuring that Portland’s schools meet ADA accessibility standards will help more Oregonians with disabilities achieve greater safety, independence and opportunities."
Community Vision, Inc, an organization that offers a network of services to assist people experiencing disability to live, work, and thrive independently, also endorses the measure. "We are eager to support meaningful accessibility investments alongside crucial renovations and remediations to ensure every Portlander has access to a safe and healthy school," according to a statement from the organization.
"We urge you to vote YES on measure 26-196 for safe and healthy schools," said Angela Jarvis-Holland, current PPS parent and Executive Director of the Northwest Down Syndrome Association. "This bond includes investments in ADA accessibility, lead abatement and building modern learning environments where all students can thrive," Jarvis-Holland said.