Paving the Way: PGCS Student Advocates for Herself and Others

20.11.2013     PGCS   No comments

Paving the Way: PGCS Student Advocates for Herself and Others

Coming back from summer break, Sarah, a middle school student, was eagerly waiting to drive up in her power wheel chair to the front steps of P.G. Chambers School (PGCS) to see the newly painted cutouts on the sidewalks in the front of the building. Before the summer break, Sarah had realized that there could be improvements made to the school to help her access the building easily and safely, so she asked Susan Seamans, Executive Director, for help.

During a regularly scheduled evacuation drill at the school, all of the students and staff were quickly and quietly exiting the building. Sarah, who had received a new power wheelchair a few months before (as documented in our last e-newsletter and blog post), was doing her best to navigate out of the building and into the parking lot of the school. Due to her slight visual impairment, she realized that it was difficult for her to differentiate between the sidewalk and the cutout where wheel chairs can enter the parking lot.

It was at this point that Sarah decided to be her own advocate and propose a solution. With help from her teacher, Linda Cook, Sarah made an appointment to meet with Susan to discuss her ideas on how to improve the situation. During her meeting, Sarah proposed to paint the cutouts around the school, so that she and other students with similar disabilities could easily distinguish the places where their chairs could go off the sidewalk and into the parking lot.


Although the school building is in full compliance with ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements for accessibility, Susan thought that painting the cutouts was a great idea, and she was particularly responsive to Sarah’s initiative and self-advocacy. Sarah suggested different colors, showing Susan what she thought would work, and together they experimented by placing the colors on the cutouts to decide which would work best.


After choosing a bright red color, Susan told Sarah that she would do her best to have the cutouts painted by the beginning of the school year in September. On the first day of school after the August break, Sarah was overjoyed to see the painted cutouts and rolled onto the sidewalk with great ease. The important dual message here is that our school is constantly improving for our students, but also that students are learning and practicing important skills in advocacy that will serve them all their lives to effect positive changes for themselves and for others.

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