Despite the renovations, DGS still lacks accessibility


Owen Chaidez

Life would be much better if people took time to integrate disabled people into their everyday life, not just include.

Owen Chaidez, Freelance Writer

With the recent renovations giving DGS many new places for students to use, the school feels much more modern; these renovations include study rooms, a commons for all students and smaller subsections throughout each floor. Starting in 2019, the process has been steady, with a slight hiccup when COVID-19 caused shutdowns of schools. However one aspect that needs updating is the overall accessibility.

One excellent addition is that of a new and larger elevator located in the commons. The elevator is great, but there’s one caveat: The elevator is frequently out of service. This forces students who rely on it to use the older elevator which is smaller and slower.

Due to the elevator being owned by a third party company, the DGS maintenance team can perform little to no maintenance on it. This is an issue as there’s a constant flow of people using it, and when the elevator stops working that flow is interrupted.

The thought process behind the renovations is clear; the goal is to make the school feel like a college to prepare students for their higher learning. Although this goal was achieved, there’s a conflict between aesthetic versus functionality. As the ADA (American Disability Act) is always being updated and revised; the requirements for building code change a lot.

Unfortunately, in the conflict of aesthetic versus functionality, those who rely on the functionality side become an afterthought. Although DGS can only do so much, it’s an inconvenience for daily school life and it inadvertently conveys the idea that disabled people are not worthy of being thought of with everyone else.

Assistant Vice Principal Omar Davis gave his input on what was considered while planning the renovations while also abiding by the ADA and general accessibility guidelines.

“The first thing that goes into consideration when designers and architects are building this space is ADA code compliance. ADA, accessibility and compliance is part of our construction and building code. Spaces that are older are grandfathered in because building and construction code has changed over time. Things are built differently than they were back then, so [with] any new structure there’s ADA code and compliance that Designers, Architects, and Contractors have to abide by,” Davis said.

Davis talked about some members of the community who gave input while DGS was designing and planning.

“We did invite in the planning phase our community members, [The] school board, parents, and students into a kind of a formal, conceptual process. So while re-imagining spaces, we pulled those groups of folks together and asked questions like ‘What would you like to do in this new space?’” Davis said.

Davis also talked about who consulted during the building phase.

“That’s a different group; so you have the architects, you have the engineers, and the HVAC specialists who do air and ventilation and other things like that. You also have construction managers and the designers who design colors, lighting and things like that. The construction managers decide ‘can we build this?’, and they have to figure out if it’s possible to build what we need while keeping in line with the designers,” Davis said.

Davis explained more about what DGS is doing to solve the elevator problems.

“There are things that go wrong, and right now we are seeing this with our elevator. For major repairs, we do have to call out to those companies due to the service agreements. They’ve ordered new parts for it, and they’ve completely changed a panel that was not working,” Davis said.

Hopefully over the next few months these changes are implemented and will improve the accessibility for those who need it. These insights show that the DGS team is always working to help solve problems.

It isn’t always an issue on the technical end. I’ve personally experienced people not stepping around my wheelchair or waiting to walk past me, and truthfully it’s irritating as I have little control over what people choose to do.

Life would be much better if people took time to integrate disabled people into their everyday life, not just include. There’s a big gap between including and integrating, and understanding this helps both disabled and able-bodied people alike.