Government Accountability Office
GAO access barrier

Most public schools have barriers to accessibility, GAO says

July 24, 2020
Report finds that 63% of school districts have facility deficiencies that limit access for people with disabilities.

Most U.S public schools have physical barriers that potentially limit access for individuals with disabilities, a federal report says.

ABC News reports that nearly two-thirds of public schools contained impediments such as inaccessible door handles, steep ramps, playground barriers and door vestibules that limit accessibility. according to the report published by the Government Accountability Office said.

"According to our national survey, an estimated 63 percent of school districts have barriers that may limit access for people with disabilities in a quarter or more of their school facilities," the GAO says.

"Additionally, we estimated that 17 percent of districts nationwide—enrolling over 16 million students— have one or more schools that are not typically attended by students with physical disabilities due to the number of barriers."

[MORE: Read the entire GAO report, "School Districts Need Better Information to Help Improve Access for People with Disabilities" (pdf 86 pages)]

In the report, schools cited funding constraints as the main reason for not improving facilities' accessibility.

With states facing potential budget shortfalls because of the Covid-19 pandemic, schools are likely to face roadblocks in their efforts to improve accessibility.

According to GAO, schools with the most barriers tended to be more than 25 years old and faced other problems with the condition of their facilities.

"For example, nearly all district officials we interviewed noted that keeping their school facilities warm, dry, and safe are among their highest priorities," the report said.

The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits disability discrimination, including in schools, and is enforced by the U.S. Justice Department.

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