Opening Minds for More than One Day

There are days and there are days.

There are days I like: Thanksgiving; Labor Day; the first day of spring.

This is a day I’d rather not see again; Bloging Against Disablism Day, the sixth in what I fear will be a rather long run.

For the uninitiated, disablism is how most of the world treats people who have disabilities, like parking in a space reserved for handicapped people “just for a minute” while you run into the store. If that isn’t clear, a detailed description is available.

I’ve come across an example of disablism in my school.

Using underarm crutches.

Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday there were two students in our library all day. They weren’t there to do research; they were there because they have injuries that require them to use crutches. Apparently our school does not allow students using crutches to go above the ground floor, but all our classrooms are on

the two higher floors. We have an elevator but students can’t use it.

While all of their classmates are getting instruction, they sit in the library. The teachers are supposed to send down work for them to do but they usually don’t. Even if they do, it is a textbook and a worksheet, not exactly inspired teaching.

While all their classmates are chatting, socializing and learning together, these two boys (last year it was girls) sit and talk to each other. Sometimes they get so desperate for conversation they talk to me!

These boys don’t really think of themselves as disabled but they are, at least for the next six to eight weeks. That is not the problem.

The problem, what makes this an example of disablism, is that despite kids repeatedly breaking ankles, legs and other things necessitating crutches, my school has not come up with a better plan for dealing with these mobility issues and the students who have them.

It is truly an issue of “out of sight, out of mind.”

People who have disabilities don’t hide like they used to, don’t make it as easy to keep them out of mind as it once was. They’re on the streets, in the stores and at work more and more all the time. That visibility is helping to create mindfullness.

I hope this blog post contributes to this growing awareness. With any luck I won’t have to write a post like this next year.

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15 Responses to Opening Minds for More than One Day

  1. Lisa Nielsen says:

    What the heck??? This is another example of parents and their children feeling powerless and that is sad! Parents need to stand up and fix the schools lest they damage the child, which is the point of the booklet I wrote at .

    Perhaps you can tell your students to have their parents tune in as I speak about empowering parents tomorrow on Parents as Partners or they can listen to the archives. Details at

  2. Martha says:

    That is horrible!! Poor students, that is no way to learn.

  3. Selene says:

    Too true, it’s so easy to ignore the “just one case”, but it’s not, it’s the whole system. Thanks for the post!

  4. Barb Lieberman says:

    I have spent a greater number of my years more physically disabled than abled and came to adulthood before the ADA and PL94-142 were passed. We have come a long way since then but not far enough by any means. ‘Accessible’ has a very different meaning for me, and others like me, than it does for many others. Like you, Deven, it saddens and angers me that we are still having to blog and push and question something that should be a no-brainer.

    Thank you for your blog!

  5. Whew! I have to say I am confused….

    Does your school have no disabled students at all — not just students with mobility impairments….

    If the institution cannot manage handling students with temporary impairments, how can it include students with disabilities into the student body at large??


    • Deven Black says:

      I think the problem handling these students with temporary mobility disabilities is that while we have students with learning disabilities, emotional disabilities and hearing disabilities, we do not have any students with permanent mobility impairments. Another middle school just four or five blocks away was built after the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act and is accessible, so the students with mobility issues go there.

  6. This is utterly ridiculous and appalling. For the love of god, why can’t the students use the elevator?? Jeez louise….

    • Deven Black says:

      There are several concerns about students using the elevators, it was explained to me today. First is that our school is not equipped with escape windows. Should there be a fire the students on crutches (we’re up to 3 now) would have to use the stairs. Second is that the elevator is at one end of a very long hallway and the students on crutches would have to move along that hallway during period changes, something many students (and some staff) without crutches have difficulty doing. Third is that the elevator is not really a passenger elevator and requires keys to operate.

      That all makes sense to me, but there has got to be a better way to handle the situation. There was some construction going on in the library today so the students had to go to the office or the nurse’s office for most of the day.

      • DavidG says:

        “Should there be a fire the students on crutches would have to use the stairs.”

        Stairs aren’t an issue for most people who have to use crutches after the first couple of weeks (I never found them to be an issue). For those who do have problems and wouldn’t be comfortable during an evacuation, the solution is an evac chair: cheap, widely available, easily used. Just ensure several per floor and that at least one teacher per student is trained to use it.

        Hallway: non-issue. If the students aren’t comfortable using it while busy then clear them to be a couple of minutes late to class.

        Elevator: So what if it’s key operated, it’s the perfect opportunity for the principal to get off his butt and do something practical several times a day. If not the principal, then a janitor or a teacher or whoever.

        It’s unsurprising that your school has never had a student with a mobility impairment given the situation you paint, but what does your principal propose to do when one turns up at your doorstep in a wheelchair and demands to be admitted? It’s only a generation since ADA was passed, it’s not as if any reasonable person would expect him to have reacted to it already….

  7. […] A city school displays “disablism” by prohibiting students on crutches from going to class. (Deven Black) […]

  8. JB says:

    Oh cripes. The adults in this school are simply devoid of creativity. There is certainly SOME way to use the elevator and then give the kids extra time to get down that long hall. Cripes.

  9. Barb Lieberman says:

    Back when I was very physically challenged, I was mostly tutored at home because I could not navigate my schools. When I was able to use crutches, I was given permission to leave class about 5 minutes early so that I could get to my next class before the halls filled up. The adults really do need to see this differently.

  10. DavidG says:

    I faced very similar issues with my employer when I first started using crutches. I just kept working at my first (US 2nd) floor office, but some busybody decided I was an insurance risk and I was banished downstairs. Amongst other problems that cost me a pay rise – my then new (upstairs) boss claimed ‘I don’t know you, so I scored you last’. I fought against it, proved to OH that stairs weren’t a problem, ignored the absolutely ludicruous suggestions from their tame quack, and was allowed to resume my job.

    A few years later the company got more ‘serious’ (yeah, right) about fire drills. The fire warden for our floor was a friend, so well aware of my situation, and came back from her annual training to announce ‘Dave, because of your crutches, we’ve decided that you have to wait for everyone else to evacuate the building.’ It’s one thing to wait for everyone to clear the stairs voluntarily, it’s another to be told to do it, so I asked ‘In that case, shouldn’t I have a Personal Evacuation Plan’, to which the reply was ‘Oh, no, you’re not that disabled!’

    It got even better the next year, not only was I expected to wait until last, but she had now been advised that she could pass me on the stairs on the way to announce that she had confirmed the building was empty!

  11. NTE says:

    This sounds quite like my high school situation, and many of the suggestions your other commenters have made were the solutions we used (leaving early/arriving late to class, having a teacher with a key, etc), so it’s never the case that there aren’t things schools coulddo. I’m just making my way through the BADD posts today, but already I have this feeling of “I wish I were surprised, but I’m not.”

  12. @theprofspage says:

    There was a student at my school who had been in a car accident and our elevator was broken. She spent a month and a half in the library because she couldn’t get upstairs. She had two classes upstairs and missed instruction in them both.

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