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EXCLUSIVE: Kids with disabilities will get first shot at accessible schools
The New York Daily News - 12/6/2018
Dec. 06--Kids with disabilities will get first shot at seats in the public schools that are accessible to them under a new enrollment policy announced by Mayor de Blasio on Thursday.
The change starts in the 2019-20 school year that begins in September and replaces an existing rule under which students with disabilities received no consideration when applying to accessible schools.
A 2018 tally by the nonprofit Advocates for Children found that only 335 of 1,818 public schools in the city were fully equipped for students with disabilities, with items such as wheelchair ramps and elevators to allow students get to class.
According to the report that was featured in an October Daily News cover story, roughly one-third of the city's schools were partially accessible to people with disabilities, meaning that some areas could be navigated by individuals who use wheelchairs or have sight or hearing impairments.
De Blasio the new policy gives kids with disabilities priority for admissions to those schools.
"Equity is at the heart of everything we do for our students including those with accessibility needs," de Blasio said. "We're making necessary improvements to make the admissions process fairer and easier for students who need accessible spaces, by giving them priority at schools that better meet their needs."
Education Department officials said the policy change affects roughly 500 students who have a physical disability or health condition that requires access to an accessible building.
Enrollment officials will follow up directly with each family who has indicated an accessibility need on their school application.
Education Department officials said that 45 percent of elementary schools, 55 percent of middle schools, and 58 percent of high schools are fully or partially accessible to students with disabilities.
The Education Department is currently in the process of surveying all partially accessibility school buildings and creating a record of accessibility information about different floors, rooms and classrooms in each school.
Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said the new policy builds on previous investments to improve school accessibility including $750 million in the new proposed capital plan to create more accessible public schools.
"This is the right thing to do to serve students and families who need accessible school buildings," Carranza said.
Advocates for Children Executive Director Kim Sweet said the new enrollment rule will improve kids' lives.
"This change in policy should make a world of difference for students with physical accessibility needs who have historically found it nearly impossible to make the same use of NYC's school choice system as their friends and family," Sweet said.
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