Two area residents recently complained that compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 is slipping and that some institutions are not providing adequate access.
The ADA is civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination against anyone based on their ability. Every business, public institution and school in the country must follow these laws.
ADA compliance requires that public facilities and programs not only refrain from actively discriminating against individuals, but also ensure that no one is passively discriminated against through an existing or imposed lack of equitable access. For example, if students cannot access a classroom at an educational institution because they are in wheelchairs and the building is not up to date with entrances for wheelchair users, this constitutes a direct violation of the ADA.
Another common problem is lack of access for people who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind or have other physical variations that require accommodations. Denying individuals access to public services, businesses, schools, or other institutions is a violation of the ADA.
At Tahlequah Public Schools, officials say ADA compliance is taken seriously. Not only is it the law, but by ignoring ADA compliance issues, students can be negatively affected. The TPS released a non-discrimination statement at a board meeting in October 2014, and trustees say the district still strictly adheres to it.
It reads: “It is the policy of the Tahlequah Board of Education District 1035 that no person shall be excluded from participation because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, marital or veteran status, or qualifying disability in, being denied benefits, or being discriminated against in education programs, activities, services or admission, financial assistance, recruitment, consideration, selection or full-time or part-time employment, or any other activity for which the Board of Education is responsible. “
To ensure that these procedures are followed, staff members are dedicated to handling any grievance that arises.
DeAnn Mashburn is the GST Compliance Coordinator, and she is responsible for responding to inquiries regarding policy enforcement related to religion, race, or ethnicity, as well as Title VII issues or personnel of civil rights law and the ADA and/or disability-related. Strategies. Susan Vanzant is listed as the Compliance Coordinator for inquiries regarding gender-related policy enforcement or Title IX, as well as protections for students with different abilities covered by IDEA or Section 504. Both are accessible for questions by calling 918-458-4100 or visiting the TPS Board office at 225 N. Water Ave.
Mandi Jordan is the director of the special education department at Tahlequah High School. She has a close relationship with students who are directly affected by the ADA.
“We have several children with walkers and wheelchairs and everything is accessible to them. From the elevator at TMAC, to entering and exiting the various buildings on campus, to the play equipment,” said Jordan. “We have a magnifying glass for students with visual impairments. Tahlequah hires people with disabilities of all kinds. There are plenty of handicap spaces throughout Tahlequah’s facilities.”
These are just a few of the changes that TPS has been intentional about over the years.
This seems to be the key to ADA compliance; as society recognizes traditionally overlooked limits, changes must be planned.
Emily Lanston is a TPS teacher who came to the district last year.
“Tahlequah really arranges for you so you can do what you need to do,” Langston said. “It builds a community of wanting to help others.”
Requests have been sent to Northeastern State University and the Cherokee Nation for brief summaries of the policies, but they were not provided by Press Time. However, the NSU communications team has in the past directed inquiries to its website, where details are available at https://offices.nsuok.edu/studentaffairs/StudentServices/StudentDisabilityServices.aspx . These pages describe the recourses available to students if they believe the policy is not being followed.