Rolling Without Limits

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Accessible Education Sorely Needed at All Levels
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Accessible Education Sorely Needed at All Levels

One of the greatest resources available for any individual in this country is access to a continued education after high school. Going to college can help open new opportunities for careers and for understanding what you want out of life as you grow and change over the years. For many young adults, it’s also the first step out into the world without your parents.

Unfortunately, there are still some groups who have a hard time getting a college education. Among those who are challenged in achieving their college dreams are those people living with disabilities that necessitate mobility assistance devices. It can be hard to simply attend class when you can’t even enter a building because it isn’t accessible to devices like wheelchairs or scooters.

Naturally, if you can’t attend class, you aren’t going to be able to participate fully in your education or pass your exams. While the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 makes it so that all new buildings must have accessible entrances, some university buildings were built well before then. This means that until a building is up for renovation, triggering ADA updates, students with mobility assistance devices may be excluded from accessing that space.

There are some ways that universities can make their classes more accessible for those with mobility assistance devices. There also alternative ways to engage with the classroom setting and the peer benefits of an education even when someone can’t make it physically to a class. Luckily, the world of higher education is changing and there are workarounds.

Everyone Has a Right to an Education

For those in charge of creating higher education classroom environments, it’s crucial to remember that everyone has a right to an education. All different types of individual people should be taken into account when designing a classroom, and that includes all the different ways in which someone could enter that room. This includes people who may be entering a classroom using a mobility assistance device.

This isn’t simply for indoor consideration, either. The designs of sidewalks and crosswalks should also take into account the ways in which people with disabilities may move through or across them. For example, when timing how long a crosswalk lights flash, schools should consider how long it would take someone with a mobility assistance device to move across the same space.

It’s important to note that these same types of considerations when applied to universities and colleges should also be applied to K-12 schools. Many new elementary and high school buildings already account for mobility assistance devices in the design of their doors and hallways. Teachers should also be prepared to create learning environments that account for all different types of students, regardless of the level of education.

Of course, teachers can only lobby for so much remodeling or renovating if their building is old. Real physical changes may need to come via approval at a higher level, like from a superintendent or school board. However, understanding the importance of accessible classrooms is crucial for all educators.

Inclusive Classrooms Are the Future

Luckily, advancements in both technology and teaching theory have made inclusive classrooms more and more widely available. An inclusive classroom is one that makes it possible for students with disabilities to join their classmates in the same lesson plans and group activities. This creates a welcoming environment for all different types of students, regardless of ability.

One way of creating an inclusive classroom is by ensuring classrooms are accessible to students with mobility assistance devices. This can mean having tables that are easy to reach from a wheelchair, or making aisles between seats ramps instead of stairs. Spaces between furniture and the space down aisles should also be wide enough for a wheelchair or scooter to move through unhindered.

Teachers can also learn different techniques for creating lesson plans and activities that include everyone in the room. By avoiding activities that exclude some students, teachers can create a classroom that makes every student feel they are a part of something bigger. This can help get students more excited about their education.

In order to inspire students to stick with their education, especially in places where continuing education rates are low, getting every student excited about learning is crucial. This means giving them the chance to enter the classroom and engage with every part of a lesson plan regardless of their abilities. Additionally, this is why inclusivity is so huge — all students deserve that chance.  

Distance Learning Is Always an Option

Finally, the growth of distance learning opportunities at every level of education can always be an option for students with disabilities. Learning from the comfort of home can leave time and energy for pursuing after school activities or other interests. It can also reduce stress associated with worrying about being able to access a building or classroom students may have.

Distance learning comes with many bonuses in addition to being more widely accessible for every different type of student. Taking courses online can sometimes be cheaper or more cost effective than taking classes in person. Students can also emulate the classroom experience without having to travel to campus via peer forums and video chats.

That said, education shouldn’t be relegated to online options. Students may benefit from the ease of access supplied by online classes, but they can also feel isolated or exiled from their peers in the classroom. There’s nothing that can replace in-person peer engagement, especially in a learning environment.

Allowances and changes should be made to make all types of learning accessible to anyone who has a desire to participate. It’s possible to create a mix of online learning tools with accessible spaces in order to give all students the same opportunities as their peers. This can create the brightest and best possible future for the students and for the education world.

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