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Disabled FH Collins students get a lift

Disabled FH Collins students got a much-needed lift last week.After months of having limited access to areas of their school, a new wheelchair lift…

Disabled FH Collins students got a much-needed lift last week.

After months of having limited access to areas of their school, a new wheelchair lift is now operational.

It became operational last Friday, said Doris Wurfbaum, a spokeswoman for the Yukon government’s property management agency.

“The lift was installed on December 14, it was installed by local contractor Robert Lifts,” said Wurfbaum of the $15,000 project.

Funding for the lift’s replacement was approved on November 1, she added.

The lift to the library and music room had been broken since mid-August, a few weeks before FH Collins restarted a shared-resources program that saw disabled children join able-bodied schoolmates for the beginning of the new academic year, according to Education officials.

The original timeline for having the lift repaired was April 2008, in line with the new territorial budget, said Education’s facilities project manager Dale Enzenauer in late October.

At the same time, disability advocate Rick Goodfellow publicly criticized the school and the Education department for allowing the lift to remain broken for months.

Permitting disabled students to be picked up out of their wheelchairs and carried down the stairs by school staff, as was happening at the school, is not acceptable, said Goodfellow in previous interviews.

That kind of behaviour was tantamount to treating disabled kids as “second-class citizens,” he said.

The whole thing shouldn’t have of happened considering the school’s accessibility shortcomings had been identified by the Canada Games universal access committee in 2004, said Goodfellow.

That committee identified the wheelchair lift as unsafe and the fact the school lacked wheelchair accessible doors as unacceptable, he said.

Although the chair was originally scheduled to be replaced in April, the decision was made to move up the timeframe to make things easier for the students who needed the lift, said Education spokeswoman Clea Roberts this week.

“The original replacement date was set for April because we don’t usually initiate new capital projects at this point in the year,” she said.

“Exceptions are made, or course, when student need is significant …

“In the case of the wheelchair lift replacement, the department of Education identified this project as a high priority for completion after discussions between school-based staff and staff at the department.”

There is no timeline on when other projects such as the wheelchair accessible doors will be completed, added Wurfbaum.