The Wootton High School SGA has recently been advocating to increase accessibility around the school’s building to further comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). There are 380 ADA compliance violations within the school today, and this project, advocated for by Wootton students, seeks to fix the problem. The project is budgeted for $13 million in the MCPS Capital Budget plan in the upcoming year and would greatly improve the non-accessible parts of the school for people who need it. Not all students are able to navigate the non-complacent infrastructure of the building, which prevents everyone from having the same opportunities to get around the school.
Students started advocating for change when Wootton High School senior Catherine Contreras pointed out that during a fire drill, “some students with disabilities were scared and had trouble evacuating and getting to a meetup point outside.” Her observations opened her eyes to the various ADA violations prevalent in the school that continues to impair students.
Wootton will require a major renovation to address their problems. While this renovation will be costly and time-consuming, it will greatly improve the lives of all students and make the building a safer place. ADA compliance requirements include curb cuts to sidewalks and entrances, so wheelchairs can move in and out safely, wider doors, accessible door hardware, and making all restrooms accessible. All of these additions will make it safer for students to get in and out of the building; meaning fire drills, evacuation drills, and even entering and exiting the school every day will be less of a struggle for students with disabilities.
The campaign for accessible spaces for people with disabilities allows for more equal and equitable opportunities, as it takes the focus back on education rather than the stress of navigating a school. It is evident that currently, Wootton is not built with the consideration of students who may not be able to use stairs or that need more accessible handles. As students advocate for change around the school, positive change starts to take place.