Grant to make public high school auditorium handicapped-accessible?
August 24, 2012 11:22 AM   Subscribe

Are there any grants available for public high schools to make their facilities (specifically the auditorium) handicapped and wheelchair-accessible? I've been told that there might be federal funds available for this purpose but I don't know where to start looking. We're in New Jersey, could there be state funds for the same purpose?
posted by exhilaration to Law & Government (6 answers total)
You should speak to the Community Health Law Project about this.
posted by jph at 11:57 AM on August 24, 2012 is where you can search for federal funds
posted by fieldtrip at 12:02 PM on August 24, 2012

Have you asked your district's CFO? Your district's CFO (whatever you call that function) should know this.

I don't know of any federal funds for this, though I heard some states did make ARRA funds available for physical plant improvements in schools (mine did not). That money is all spent, however.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:10 PM on August 24, 2012

Best answer: I am not aware of funds specifically dedicated to this work. However, public schools have been required to create "program access" (including to unique facilities such as auditoriums) since 1992 under the ADA, and for years earlier under the Rehabilitation Act. Typically public schools have never complied with these requirements, and the access work does not happen until someone with standing (a child or parent with a mobility disability) enforces their rights. Then the district "finds" the money to do the work from various places.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 12:36 PM on August 24, 2012

Best answer: You're a public school in New Jersey? This is what taxes are for, to keep the district in compliance with federal and state regulations. The problem arises when there is a tax cap and the money is going toward defined benefit pension plans and automatic step raises. In my district in NY, teacher total compensation is up by about 4% or $2 million yet 11 of them either retired and were not replaced or were laid off. With the tax cap, the only place the money can come from is laying off teachers or reducing student spending on such things as text books, extra-curricular activities, sports, theater, etc.

So, if your district has to pay for it itself, it will cause a reduction in services somewhere else.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 1:13 PM on August 24, 2012

You could contact SPANNJ, the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network of New Jersey, to discuss this issue if you or your child needs access to the auditorium as part of their educational process (particular examples might be that a class or final is held there, or that the school has assemblies that meet there which the student in question can not access BUT THAT IS NOT AN EXHAUSTIVE LIST). SPANNJ should be able to provide you with technical assistance on how to work with the school district on ways to make the auditorium accessible. Their mandate is to provide technical assistance to parents of children who qualify for special education. Their services are free.

If you are seeking access to the auditorium as part of a non-education-related endeavor- ie, there is a weekly community movie night held at the school and people who use wheelchairs cannot attend or someone in a wheelchair wants to see the school play- you could contact a disability rights organization in New Jersey which you hopefully will be able to find by googling "disability rights New Jersey" to ask for technical assistance on bringing the school into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

If you are a school district business manager, I don't have anything relevant to add.

I am not your disability rights advocate, education advocate, or any other kind of professional and this is not professional advice!
posted by Snarl Furillo at 1:52 PM on August 24, 2012

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