Maya Bosdet says she’s excited for the beginning of classes next week because it means continuing a family tradition of attending high school at Claremont Secondary, in Saanich, B.C.
But a tour of the school this week has her concerned the building won’t be accessible enough to meet her needs as a wheelchair user.
A previous visit to the school revealed a lack of ramps and an unreliable elevator. Maya also says the door to the accessible bathroom is really heavy, while the lock and light are situated too high for her to reach.
Maya has a rare genetic disease called mucopolysaccharidosis, which causes sugar molecules cells to build up in her body. She has joint pain, a dislocated hip, and regularly sees specialists and undergoes surgery.
Lisa Bosdet, Maya’s mother, said the pair took a tour of the school in June and were disappointed to learn that the “archaic” elevator regularly breaks down, the desks are too high, and there aren’t any wheelchair ramps.
Bosdet said the elevator is currently being repaired, but is still concerned it will be unsafe.
“We expressed lots at that tour about what we saw [were issues],” she said. “I don’t want [Maya] to have to ask a friend to take her to the bathroom at 14 years old.
“I feel like it’s a basic human right for her to be able to use the bathroom.”
On a second tour of the school this week, the pair said they found not much had been improved for the start of the school year.
Bosdet said Maya’s therapists expressed concerns to the school staff about the lack of accessibility, but the response was that it would cost too much money.
CBC was not granted access to the school, and requests for interviews with school staff were declined.
A B.C. government document says the school was built in 1961.
Justina Loh, the executive director of the Disability Alliance B.C., says that was long before buildings were designed with accessible features.
“In the last few years accessibility has become more of a buzzword and more important … especially as our population ages,” Loh said.
‘Most of my friends are going to this school’
Maya said she doesn’t want to attend another high school because Claremont is close to her home.
“My dad went here,” she said. “Most of my friends are going to this school.”
She added that her friend, who also uses a wheelchair, attends the school with a caregiver who helps him move around and use the restroom.
Maya said she wants to maintain her independence.
Dave Eberwein, the superintendent for the Saanich School District, said while retrofitting an older building isn’t easy, “that doesn’t mean we don’t make them accessible. All of our schools are accessible.”
“Our goal is to, within reasonable amounts, accommodate all … students’ needs in each building,” he said, adding that things such as a light switch that’s too high, or a door that is too heavy, can be fixed relatively quickly.
He noted, however, that “sometimes it’s just not physically possible to install every accessibility [measure] in every building [because it’s] just not going to fall within our budget.”
‘We need to progress’
Bosdet said it seems accessibility issues often don’t take priority in a school’s budget, and the change needs to come from the higher ranks in the school district.
“It’s almost 2020, and I really believe we need to step up now … We need to progress,” she said.
She’s adamant that Maya will not attend another school.
“I resist changing a school because … the path I’d rather take is speak up and get them to make these changes so [my daughter] can have a choice.
“We’ll find a way to make it work.”