A majority of public school districts across the United States have physical barriers that potentially limit access for students and other individuals with disabilities, according to a new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, an independent investigative agency that reports to Congress.
The report, released Friday, found that two-thirds of U.S. public school districts have steep ramps, tight door vestibules, inoperable door handles, and other potential violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the 1990 federal law that prohibits discrimination of people with disabilities in all areas of public life.
In the report, schools cited funding constraints as the main reason for not improving facilities’ accessibility, though roughly 70 percent of districts indicated they have plans to improve school accessibility in the next three years.
To ensure more schools are accessible, the report urges action from the U.S. departments of education and justice. In February, the agencies launched a school safety website, SchoolSafety.gov, that fails to provide specific information on both improving school accessibility and meeting Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, the report determined.
Investigators also concluded that the justice department has not provided much-needed technical assistance to schools on how to ensure physical accessibility and that the troubles with accessibility extend beyond students to include people with disabilities who work in schools or rely on the buildings for voting and other activities.
School buildings that are not Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant are a longstanding problem. In 2016, a U.S. Department of Justice investigation found that 83 percent of public schools in New York City, the nation’s largest school system, had non-accessible entrances, bathrooms that could only be accessed by stairs, or playgrounds that lack handrails or have steep ramps.
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A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.