Parents of a Nova Scotia boy with muscular dystrophy are speaking out about the lack of accessibility at his school outside of Halifax.
Peyton Roach is 10-years-old and spends most of his day in a wheelchair. He is about to start senior elementary at Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea School, but can't get to the school's second floor.
Peyton's parents have been fighting for years to ensure their son could access all school facilities.
Since Grade Primary they have talked to Halifax Regional School Board officials about making his school accessible. They say it's been a struggle and Peyton should be able to experience life like any other child his age.
Peyton attended Grades Primary to Grade 2 at the junior building with no problems since it is equipped with an elevator. His new school is not, despite a promise from the school board to have measures in place by September.
“I can understand we have old buildings,” says Alan Roach, Peyton’s father. “But we have been pro-active with this for 5 years.”
After many emails and meetings, the province approved money to purchase and install a lift in April. The school board promised it would be ready next month so Peyton would be able to access his classroom, the library and other facilities on the second floor.
In the last few days, the family was told that wasn't possible.
Doug Hadley is spokesman for the Halifax Regional School Board.
“We failed,” he says. “We have to do better and for that we apologize.”
Peyton’s parents say even the small victories haven't come easy. Lowering a coat hook took months and the school only installed an automatic door opener and small ramp at the entrance after the legislative speaker, also in a wheelchair, visited the school.
Hadley says they realized in mid-July the lift wouldn’t be installed in time. He says it was the design that held up the project. He says the extensive design required for the project that took more time.
The family says staff and the school have been more than helpful and they lay blame squarely at the feet of the school board.
'We failed.' - Doug Hadley
“We're very sorry that it occurred this way,” Hadley says. “It should not have been a situation that we're having to explain now. We should have had it done but in the meantime we should have explained this to Peyton's family back in July.”
The school board expects the lift will be operational in October but this isn't an isolated case. There are between 30 and 40 schools in the Halifax area alone that are not accessible.
Both the province and the school board say they're working to change that.
Peyton says he isn't so much concerned for himself, as he is for others.
“I'm pretty sure there's two kids that are in the junior school that have wheelchairs and are going to need the things that I need right now.”