Finding and applying to high school as a student with a physical disability in New York City is not easy. There are very few fully accessible high schools in the city—only about 12 percent of high schools across all five boroughs meet the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act. While there are several schools in the system that are considered “partially accessible,” the degree to which these schools are accessible for students with disabilities varies significantly. For example, some schools may not have accessible bathrooms or ways for a student to travel past the first floor. Until now, understanding how accessible a “partially accessible” school is, was impossible without visiting the school.

The good news is the city’s Department of Education (DOE) is making it a bit easier for students and families. With the recent release of Building Accessibility Profiles (BAP) for high schools in Manhattan, Bronx and Staten Island, families can now go on to the DOE’s website and see how “partially accessible” school may be to a student with a physical disability. The profiles state the degree to which a school may be accessible, explain the accessible aspects of the school for individuals with mobility issues as well as hearing or vision impairments, and provide a rating that corresponds with the school's level of accessibility. The higher the accessibility rating, the more accessible the school. The DOE expects to release BAPs for high schools in the other boroughs as well.

When viewing the BAPs, it’s clear that more work needs to be done to increase the number of accessible high schools. When applying to schools, students with physical disabilities need opportunities and choices available to them that are comparable to the options available to other students in the system. Parents for Inclusive Education (PIE) is working with the ARISE Coalition to advocate for more substantial changes regarding accessible schools. If you have stories about accessible schools or need help finding one, please contact us at [email protected].

Jaclyn Okin Barney is an attorney and the coordinator of Parents for Inclusive Education (PIE).

(You can search for schools that are at least partially accessible to students with impaired mobility on InsideSchools, using the Modify Search function.)