Where We Are Now?
Current issues concerning the ease of accessibility for guests, students, and staff
March 28, 2017
It may not be easy to see, but people in the Cleveland community face several obstacles in accessing the school building. At Cleveland, people can enter the school through various entrances on all sides of the school, and navigate the building in a short amount of time. But for those with disabilities who, for any reason, can’t access the stairs, the path is less clear.
Visitors, teachers, and students can access the five designated disabled parking spaces in the staff parking lot across the street from the school. These spaces were added this year during the construction, but Jeff Zerba, health teacher and wrestling coach, needed accessible parking many years prior. Zerba has taught and coached at Cleveland for 27 years and has been in a wheelchair since a wrestling accident in high school. He also uses a parking spot towards the back of the building in order to get to his classroom in the most efficient way. “I still fight it a little bit,” he said. “If there’s somebody who doesn’t know that that’s my parking spot, people will park in there. Supply trucks or electricians or whatever, will block the entrance into those wheelchair spots by just parking in that little area between the gym and the school.”
After parking, if visitors are unable to use the stairs to the building’s main entrance, they must follow the sign to go around to the back of the school. “There is no [accessible] front entrance, and I don’t even know if there’s a sign that tells you where accessible entrances are or not,” said Zerba. “If you were a parent, or a substitute teacher, or somebody like that, it would be difficult.” There is a single sign on the North side of the front of the building. Even if a school is more accessible, it can be hard to know how to access it.
Once inside the building, people can use the elevator to move throughout the building. Sophomore Eli Karn uses the elevator, which was installed 16 years ago, to get around in the school with his walker, but says he wishes more could be done. “If we get more money we need another elevator,” said Karn. “We may have another elevator, but it is in the boiler room, and that is a really inconvenient place for me and other handicapped people.”
It was also inconvenient for Zerba, who taught at Cleveland for several years before the main elevator was installed. He had to use the elevator in the boiler room, which took him up to a room in the library. In order to access this elevator, he needed a custodian to use their key to open it. “The district was that way in general, there just was hardly any elevators or anything,” said Zerba. “When I subbed, in my first couple years, it would be really limiting on some jobs because a lot of places weren’t accessible.”
The gym also poses several accessibility challenges. As the wrestling coach, Zerba needs access to the gym and weight room. For the first several years of his career at Cleveland, his wrestlers had to carry him up and down the stairs into the weight room and locker room as well as the practice room in the portables. With the renovation of the new weight room, he requested a stair lift, but the problem still arises when the wrestling team travels to other schools. “Half the time when I go to other schools for wrestling matches, I have to be carried down the stairs when we’re going into the locker room,” said Zerba.
The students in the Special Education program struggled with access to the gym as well. “To get to the gym, we have to go out to [the ramp by the east wing], go up the ramp, and go all the way around to the back, because that’s the only way you can access the gym is the back doors,” said Trask. “During the construction, we had no access to the gym because it was fenced off, so my kids didn’t go to PE for the first month and a half of school.”