Most students (and administrators) usually have some anxiety surrounding an upcoming graduation ceremony. Being on stage can be nerve-racking, but imagine what it would be like if you also have difficulty even getting onto the stage in the first place?
You already know about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It mandates that anyone be able to get onstage as desired, even if it’s only a portable stage.
What’s more, students in wheelchairs can legally demand to get onstage under their own power, and parents can demand it for their children. The statute applies equally to children, adults, parents, teachers, grandparents, guest speakers, performers… anyone in a wheelchair.
A graduation ceremony is meant to be a celebration, and it should feel that way for all of your students. “To feel a part of the celebration or program, everyone needs to access to the stage,” says Lynda Reinhart, Director of the Stephen C. O’Connell Center at the University of Florida in Gainesville, FL. “At graduation; for instance, everyone needs the opportunity to cross the stage and shake hands with their University president or high school principal, regardless of disability.”
What are your options?
Ramps might work, if you have enough floor space. They need to be one foot long for every one inch of stage height. That means if you have a 30-inch-high stage you need a 30-foot-long ramp.
If you can’t spare the real estate needed to accommodate a ramp, a wheelchair lift would be perfect.
You will want to consider where and how the lift will be used. If it will be in front of a stage, you probably want a unit that won’t block audience lines of sight or interrupt the ceremony. To meet these criteria, the bare essentials for a lift that will be used in front a stage are that the lift is:
- Quiet, and
- Fitted with clear windows.
On the other hand, if your lift will be used behind the stage, then appearance, sound, and lines of sight may be less important to you. However, if you have steps from the audience to the stage, keep in mind that “equal access” may mean that you must provide access for wheelchair users so they can get onto the stage from the audience side just like everyone else.
Stage areas in most schools need to adapt to a variety of performances and uses. Whether in an elementary school “cafetorium,” middle school gymnasium, high school performing arts center, or university stadium with portable staging, a flexible space is a user-friendly space.
Thus, Reinhart and the University’s selection committee turned to the portable wheelchair lifts offered by Ascension. “Because the stage is the center of attention at graduation ceremonies and other events, the aesthetic of the portable wheelchair lifts were important to us,” says Reinhart. “Our old wheelchair lifts had towers that partly obscured the audience’s view of the stage. They drew unwanted attention with an out-of-place industrial look. We wanted better.”
Consider your needs, do some research, and you will earn the respect of colleagues, parents, and students alike. With great preparation, you can make sure that all of your students are able to cross your stage with dignity.
Attention All California Schools & Public Entities
Ascension has an exclusive contract with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and any school district or public entity in California can purchase a portable wheelchair lift without having to go through the bid process.