Accomplishing access can require different solutions. Sometimes it means building an elevator so everyone can get to each floor in a mall. Sometimes it means installing microphone systems in a theater so people with listening systems can hear every line of a play. And sometimes it just means rearranging some tables so all students can eat lunch in a cafeteria.
That’s where Sentinel High student Selah Pesanti comes in. She is a peer tutor in teacher Laura Coulter’s Independent Living class.
After listening to a history presentation on the Americans with Disabilities Act from Summit’s Mike Beers and Mary Olson, Coulter’s class went outside into the school’s courtyard.
There, Coulter asked her students to examine the space and think about how they would get around if they were using a wheelchair. In visualizing wheelchair travel, several students noticed potential problem areas: a lack of ramps leading outside from the cafeteria, potential crowding by external doors and the inability of someone using a chair to be in the lunch line because of table placement.
“One senior peer tutor, after class, decided to go talk with our principle in regards to the layout of our cafeteria,” Coulter said. “She asked if we could make changes to make it more ADA and user-friendly and safe.”
Sentinel’s principle was supportive, and asked her to do research on necessary dimensions and find pictures to come up with a solution.
So, the tutor, Selah Pesanti, started working on a plan to rearrange the cafeteria.
“I think if we got a team together we could make some changes in the cafeteria we could make it a more fun, friendly atmosphere in there,” Pesanti said. “And I think a lot more people would enjoy being in there.”
After her research is over and the redesign of the cafeteria is complete, Pesanti said she isn’t sure whether she and the other students in the class will start another project to keep making the cafeteria more user-friendly.
“Maybe. We talked about making one of the
But IL teacher Laura Coulter is confident that her students will keep finding and fixing barriers around the school.
“Everybody is quite excited that we might be able to make some changes for the good. Not just for our own class, but for the whole school: faculty, staff, students—everybody,” Coulter said. “This is just the beginning. This is just the seed that was planted thanks to Mike and Mary from Summit Independent Living Center and we’ll see where it’s going to go.”