Pam, your words hit close to home for me. My middle daughter has low vision, is a para-swimmer who hopes to compete in Tokyo, and is a high school student who has dreams of one day going to law school. My wife and I are both principals and so we are familiar with the system and how to get supports in place.
Even so, high school is an incredibly harsh place for Emma. She struggles to see social cues, to navigate the halls and stairs, to deal with glare from windows, to manage her own technology (because most of her teachers are not familiar with how she learns), and to produce written work or write exams without significant physical, emotional, and intellectual stress.
Each semester, my wife and I insist on a meeting between Emma and all of her new teachers so that she can explain what she needs and how she works and learns. This is good practice for Emma – we know that she needs to be able to advocate for herself because we will not always be beside her – but it is a bit like Groundhog Day. We thought that after a couple of years at the school there would be some general knowledge, but sadly, this is not the case.
As educators, and I include myself in this, we need to do much better at anticipating and planning for needs. My Board had Katie Novak come and present this year and UDL is an identified Board priority, so we know this is good practice – and yet progress is slow, maddeningly so.
I believe that by applying some thought on the front end and collaborating with peers we can design spaces that are more open and accessible, and as you say habitable.
This is important work. I hope to hear more about your system’s journey in future posts.
Thanks for sharing.