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Running head: ADAPTATIONS IN OUR ENVIRONMENT

Adaptations in Our Environment for


Individuals with Disabilities and
Adaptations That Need to be Added
Kelcey Miller
Seton Hill University
Introduction to Exceptional Children
Dr. Jennifer Suppo
September 15, 2015

Author Note
Kelcey Miller, Education Major, Seton Hill University

ADAPTATIONS IN OUR ENVIRONMENT

Abstract
This paper explores the accommodations that are available for individuals with disabilities. It
includes observations from an educational facility, Hempfield Area High School, and two retail
locations, Walmart and Westmoreland Mall. The accommodations are described in the context of
the law to which they relate. Two laws, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), are referenced throughout. The paper also
includes adaptations for people with disabilities that need to be added to the locations mentioned
above. The observations recorded in the essay were done by the author herself.

ADAPTATIONS IN OUR ENVIRONMENT

Adaptations in Our Environment for Individuals with Disabilities and Adaptations That Need to
be Added
One may not realize the number of accommodations that businesses, homes, and
educational facilities have in place for individuals with disabilities. I saw several of these
accommodations when I observed a high school and two retail stores. The adaptations I observed
are the result of either the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), two laws that protect the rights of citizens with disabilities
(www.idea.ed.gov; www.ada.gov). ADA is a law that prohibits the discrimination of individuals
with disabilities and IDEA is a law that ensures that children with disabilities receive certain
educational services. While these locations are very accommodating for people with disabilities,
there are a few adaptations that should be added.
The first location I observed was Hempfield Area High School. The school has an
elevator for students who use wheelchairs, scooters, or canes. This adaptation complies with the
Americans with Disabilities Act which states that the elevator must have buttons placed at a
certain height, braille next to the buttons, and a space large enough to accommodate a
wheelchair. There is also a ramp inside the school, another feature that is enforced by the ADA.
In addition, the school contains restrooms and parking spots for those with disabilities. The ADA
states that all restrooms must be utilizable by people with disabilities. This same law requires
that the business or organization offer handicapped parking spaces that are close to the building
and on level ground. Many classrooms have wheelchair accessible desks. These desks, and any
other accommodations that are added to the classroom, are covered under the Americans with
Disabilities Act. I also saw features in the high school that are part of the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act. These include physical therapy, speech therapy, and classroom aides.

ADAPTATIONS IN OUR ENVIRONMENT

The high school contains a lot of accommodations, but there are some that should be
improved. For example, the school only has one computer with Co:Writer software. However,
there is more than one student who uses the word prediction program that helps students put their
ideas into writing. The school also has a limited number of slant boards and trackers. Again,
there are several students who use these types of resources. IDEA requires that schools provide
assistive technology to students with disabilities. While the school did provide some students
with assistive resources, it should provide these resources to all students who need them.
I noticed some of the same accommodations that I noticed at Hempfield at Walmart.
Walmart also has restrooms and parking available for customers with disabilities. They have
dressing rooms that are wheelchair accessible, too. The ADA requires that five percent, or at least
one, of the dressing rooms in a cluster be accessible. Another requirement of ADA is that store
aisles must be at least three feet wide. I found that the main aisles in Walmart were considerably
larger than three feet. When I was walking around Walmart, I noticed at least one person with a
service animal. The Americans with Disabilities Act mandates that organizations must allow
service animals to accompany individuals with disabilities in all areas of the store. Lastly, I saw
several people with mobility aids shopping at Walmart. The ADA states that stores must allow
customers with such aids to utilize their stores.
Walmart is known for being especially accommodating to customers and employees with
disabilities, but like most things, there is always room for improvement. One aspect of the store
that could be changed is the amount of space in the clothing department and checkout lines. The
displays of clothing are so close together that even a customer who is not using a mobility device
cannot navigate between them. The checkout lines are also very narrow. The store should
consider eliminating some of the merchandise in the checkout lines or making the checkout areas

ADAPTATIONS IN OUR ENVIRONMENT

wider. Lastly, Walmart should lower at least one of the counters at the Pharmacy. The Americans
with Disabilities Act states that counters should be no higher than three feet.
The last location I observed was Westmoreland Mall. This location also has elevators for
people with wheelchairs, scooters, and other mobility devices. As previously mentioned, the
ADA has several specifications for the size of the elevator and for the placement of the buttons.
In addition to having Braille in the elevators, several signs throughout stores like Macys are
written in Braille. A few of the doors that are used to enter the mall have buttons that can be
pressed to automatically open the doors. As required by the ADA, the doors must open slowly
and the button used to open the door must be within the reach of someone in a wheelchair or
scooter. Like Walmart, the mall has parking spots, dressing rooms, and restrooms designed
specifically for people with disabilities. Like the other adaptations I saw in the mall, these
adaptations are part of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Some adaptations that could be added to the mall include lower counters at checkouts,
personal store assistants, and more elevators. Some of the counters, especially at stores like
Macys, do not meet the height requirements established by the ADA. The stores would be more
accommodating if they had an employee who speaks sign language. That way, they could easily
communicate with customers with speech disabilities. Finally, the mall only has one elevator.
ADA states that if a mall has twenty-five stores on each level, one elevator is sufficient.
Westmoreland Mall should consider adding another elevator since it has more than twenty-five
stores on each level.
In conclusion, I never realized how many accommodations there are for individuals with
disabilities until I observed Hempfield High School, Walmart, and Westmoreland Mall. While
the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act mandates

ADAPTATIONS IN OUR ENVIRONMENT


the services that customers and students with disabilities are entitled to receive, there are a few
accommodations that were not present in the locations I observed. Some of the adaptations that
need to be added include assistive technology, more space between merchandise displays, and
lower counters.

ADAPTATIONS IN OUR ENVIRONMENT


References
Building the Legacy: IDEA 2004. Retrieved from http://idea.ed.gov
Information and Technical Assistance on the Americans with Disabilities Act. Retrieved from
www.ada.gov

ADAPTATIONS IN OUR ENVIRONMENT