School Letter Sample: Advocating for Accessibility Changes in an Older School

Good morning, ADA Coordinator.

My name is (parent name).  I am a parent with a child with an orthopedic impairment at Johnson Elementary.  You and I met at the District community advisory committee meeting in December when I addressed the inaccessibility at Johnson.  The school had just changed the entrance into the school, which limited people with disabilities.  I addressed the urgency of the problem that was an accessibility and safety issue for my child.  It was simply two rounded door knobs that needed to be replaced with lever door handles.  Thankfully, the problem was resolved expediently after that meeting and the community was very appreciative of the universally designed doorhandles.

I’m writing you to address another accessibility issue at Johnson Elementary.  Though it has been several years, Johnson still has not benefited from state bond money (Propositions A, BB and C) to be ADA accessible.  This includes the classroom bungalows.  At this time, only 2 of the 4th grade classrooms have an ADA ramp and lever door handle.  I’m unsure if the pressure on the doors is less than 5 PSI.  All of the 5th grade classrooms have wooden steps and rounded door handles.  The resource room (classroom for the case managers/resource teachers) and PTA office both also have wooden steps and rounded door handles.  In short, I’m trying to help get our school up to code with ADA laws and regulations.

Of course, this will help my son, for his remaining years at Johnson.  He is currently in 3rd grade.  However, after discussing the concern at the IEP meeting this past December and follow-up emails to the principal, there has been no response from the school administration.  The issue at hand is time.  We have under 7 months to have the ramps in place to make those bungalows accessible before the next school year.  That is a very short amount of time considering the steps to get it through the district and state approval process.  Though he can maneuver the stairs because he does not have a wheelchair, it is still unfair to consider a child with dwarfism should just “manage” his classroom accessibility and safety.

The bungalow steps are 6″ in height, which is just one inch shorter than the length of his calf.  Physically, it is a concern for a child with dwarfism to have to maneuver the steps dozens of times each day and get to safety safely in the event of an emergency.  Though the rise and run is shorter with steps versus installing an ADA ramp, the effort in which a 37″ tall child with a 12″ inseam steps is much greater than his gait to walk down an accessible ramp.  In addition, he will need assistance to open the rounded door handles and heavy doors to access the classrooms.  At this time, the resource room is also not accessible.  Consequently, his specialized academic instruction has been modified to in-class services.  Though there is a future plan to remove those bungalows and replace them with a new building, it does not meet the current accessibility problem.

As a parent with a disability, I come to the table with great concern that accessibility has fallen by the wayside at Johnson Elementary for dozens of years.  It cannot just be considered “manageable” any longer.  No child should not have to be limited to choosing where he/she attends class or receives services because the building is not accessible.  The ADA was enacted in 1990, and it is simply shocking to me that Johnson has not come up to code with accessibility.  Whereas neighboring schools have been upgraded, Johnson Elementary has been left to “just manage”.  It’s not fair or acceptable.

Please consider this a priority. I hope to hear from you soon since time is very limited. Please feel free to contact me if you have any further questions.

Thank you.

Swimming: Ditch the Water Wings

LP mom here.

I’m 4′ tall and I have 2 kids (one AH, one LP). Both started swim lessons at age 9 months. The never used water wings, etc. We always held them in the water or were in the water with them until they could be water safe because water wings, etc. give children a false sense of safety and understanding of buoyancy. It took years to get them through each swimming milestone. Yes, even my Average Height daughter took years to learn. Even the water level was at my armpits, I held both my children. I’ve kept them in swim lessons and an intramural swim team. Nothing could be better than seeing them reach swimming goals and be water confident.

Please be patient and understanding as your LP child learns how to swim. They are not only learning about how to utilize their bodies in their environment, but also they are learning how to adapt in water. If you do not have a pool at home, it makes the learning curve difficult, much like piano lessons. If you only have access to a piano once a week, it will take some time to learn how to play. If you remain confident and encouraging to your child’s swim journey, they may someday surprise you and become great swimmers in DAAA games.

Side note, I learned how to “survive” swimming by my military dad just telling me to figure it out. In my 40’s, I enrolled myself in swim lessons to learn proper techniques and formal strokes. It took me years to learn. I challenged myself and swam in my first ever competition at the World Dwarf Games.

Child Sized Ponchos: Customizing to Size

Packing for the 2018 LPA National Conference in Orlando, we needed rain ponchos. Rain in Orlando during summer is unpredictable. We considered umbrellas, but we didn’t want the weight and the risk of it breaking. Ponchos were the way to go.

Being the thorough person, Dwarf Dad wanted to check out the best ponchos. We considered, weight, durability, features (fasteners, pockets,etc.), and ease to customize. Here’s what we found:

When it came to customizing it to our sizes (as an achon and pseudo adult and achon teen), we considered arm span and height. In addition, as people with achondroplasia, our head and necks tend to vary in length and size. We made sure to put the hood on before making a decision. Some were too short, too shallow, or narrow. Others were too thin. Here is my hack:

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Fine Cleaning for Your Bum: The BioBidet

On Dwarf Dad’s first visit to Europe as a child, he was exploring a new hotel in England and encountered an old-school bidet. His sister wondered what that odd contraption was, turned the handle and promptly got sprayed in the face. At the time, you didn’t find any kind of bidet on the mass market in the United States. Fast forward to now, you can even find them on the shelves at Costco!Read More

Color Street: Easy Nail Color

As I’m aging, my vision and dexterity  is getting weaker. My friend introduced me to Color Street one day when we were having a girls lunch. In a matter of minutes while waiting for our lunch order, she demonstrated how easy it was to put this new alternative to traditional nail polish.

I bought one set for Halloween/Dia de los Muertos, and put it in my purse. One day, I had a couple minutes before school pick up to try it out. I was surprised how “disability friendly” it was.

  1. Pretty nails for the less dexterous.
    My handwriting is pretty good and I’m a painter by formal training, but I can never paint my nails without it looking like a 3-year old did it. Also, I seem to spend more time fixing the mistakes.
  2. Difficult to make a mistake.
    Nowadays, my aging eyes has me using reading glasses. Even with them on, I can’t get the fine details done on nails. Color Street makes it easy to put on without mistakes as if you were almost a nail stylist.
  3. Sensory friendly.
    For those of you who don’t like the full sensory experience of getting your nails done (the almost nauseating smell of the air in a salon, the feeling of your nails being cleaned, etc.), Color Street works really well. It’s almost a stick-and-go thing, which also works for those who are low on time.

One thing I felt to be helpful for me is a basic manicure kit that you could find anywhere. The tools help me finish the job and fine tune any mistakes. I especially love the rubber cuticle pushers to help stamp down and smoothen the Color Street strips.

Now, I have no excuse for mani-pedi time with my daughter and nieces. Also, I’ll look more put together when I need to be.