In February, WNYC's SchoolBook published an opinion piece authored by Jackie Okin-Barney, the Coordinator of Parents for Inclusive Education (PIE), and Maggie Moroff, the Coordinator of ARISE. In a response to the DOE’s official answer to findings from U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office that 83% of New York City’s elementary schools are not fully accessible to people with disabilities, we wrote about the need for more accessible programs for students with disabilities at every age in New York City.
The members of ARISE, including PIE, know how hard it can be for families who need barrier free sites to find the right match for their children, and we want to hear from those of you who have stories to share about your own searches. To that end, we have set up a brief survey available in both English and Spanish. We hope that you’ll help us out by taking time to complete or share the survey.
During our speak out portion of the evening, we also heard stories from parents of students using or in need of assistive technology devices, as well as from educators and DOE representatives who were able to provide helpful feedback.
Along with our co-host, the Mental Health Association of New York City, we welcomed a great panel that included Dana Ashley from the Positive Learning Collaborative, Amy Breglio from the School Justice Project at Advocates for Children of New York, and Lisa Hunter Romanelli from the REACH Institute. In front of a packed room, our panelists:
And then, we heard from community members — parents, educators, and advocates — also about struggles with children reading far below grade level; schools offering little support to address students’ needs but proposing instead to hold students back; and parents eager to advocate on behalf of their children but uncertain what they could and should ask for from their schools. Again, we heard a few success stories. Our first parent speaker spoke to the room with her son by her side — her son whose school years started off incredibly rough because of his disability and his school’s unpreparedness to meet his needs, but who will be graduating with a Regents Diploma in a few weeks.
With planning, resources, training, and support, our schools can teach our students to read and write — not just decoding, but comprehending what’s in front of them. We heard it last night. The ARISE Coalition will continue to advocate for improved literacy skills for all students, including students with disabilities, but we need your help! If you haven’t yet, please sign our letter to the Chancellor, asking her to plan for and dedicate the resources necessary to prepare all school and district level staff to teach all our children to read and write.