To the editor:
During my years of living in Cache Valley some of the finest people I know are from Malad, Idaho. Therefore, I was very surprised to see the way the two disabled students were treated at their local school as recently reported in the Herald Journal. Personnel at the school were fined for not following the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. I think they should have also been required to spend a week in a wheelchair, then they could start to understand some of the pain and frustration those two young students in their school suffered. A few days in a wheelchair would open all our minds relative to the needs of both permanently and temporarily disabled persons. I just had such an experience.
Because of a broken tibia, I recently spent nearly three and a half months in a wheelchair, which has given me a greater appreciation of the American Disabilities Act. Your article mentions the lack of grab bars in the school restroom. Grab bars? For example, my husband easily found the ADA guidelines on the Internet for grab bars in the bathroom. He then made a trip to Home Depot and an hour later I had four grab bars available for my support. These same guidelines helped him build a ramp and other ADA necessities for my temporary life in a wheelchair. The easy availability of the ADA guidelines removes all excuses for lack of compliance.
I also quickly learned many so-called wheelchair accessible facilities are very difficult to use. For example, the restrooms in public or church buildings often have extremely heavy doors that cannot be opened from a wheelchair; therefore, my husband had to knock on the door before entering with me. And in some, the paper towel holder was so high on the wall I could not begin to reach it from a wheelchair, requiring his help to again enter a woman's restroom. I quickly learned when visiting a public facility, it was best to check before arrival if the building really was wheelchair accessible and then learn as many significant details as possible to prepare me. This included locating the handicap parking spots before arrival, including the availability of an accessible curb ramp.
I repeat I think it would have been appropriate for the school personnel in Malad to be required to live in a wheelchair for a week in addition to the monetary fine. Inspectors of ADA facilities should check them from a wheelchair in their attempt to assure compliance with the ADA requirements.