CAMD Scholar Carrie Ingerman ’15 Addresses Student Disabilities at Prep Schools

Carrie Ingerman ’15 delivered a presentation entitled “Educational Rights of Students with Disabilities: An Analysis of the Past, Present, and Future of Overcoming Ableism in Independent New England Boarding Schools” on Friday in Kemper Auditorium as the Barbara Landis Chase Community and Multicultural Development (CAMD) Scholar.

The presentation focused on disability rights at Andover and peer schools. “Students with disabilities add value to our community and should be treated as individuals of our diverse community,” Ingerman wrote in an email to _The Phillipian_.

Ingerman also discussed the relevancy of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendment Act (ADAAA) of 2008 to schools like Andover.

Under the ADA, discrimination on the basis of ability was declared illegal, and many additional rights for students with disabilities were explicitly guaranteed in both public and private schools.

In 1999, Andover was sued for not following the ADA. In Axelrod vs. Phillips Academy, a student argued that the school did not provide necessary accommodations for his disability. The school won the lawsuit, but the case prompted Andover to take measures to improve student disability services.

“The underlying premise of the ADA is that people with disabilities are able to participate in many aspects of life, and should be entitled to such participation, but are prevented by a variety of barriers,” said Ingerman.

Ingerman added that she believes the ADA was not a perfect end to ableism.
“[Under the ADA,] a school is not obligated to lower its standards, or academic requirements for admission, retention or graduation,” said Ingerman, who became especially passionate about disability rights after developing a disability herself three years ago.
Additionally, if accommodations would be a large burden to the school, financially, the school is not required to undertake them, which could potentially limit academic opportunities for students with disabilities, Ingerman said.

Today, the Academic Skills Center (ASC) offers assistance to students with disabilities. Only six out of the 40 dorms and seven academic buildings on campus, however, are fully wheelchair-accessible.

Ingerman’s presentation also featured a talk by Randy Pierce, a hiker who was the first blind man to climb all 48 of New Hampshire’s tallest mountains.

Pierce is the founder of “20/20 Vision Quest,” a non-profit organization that encourages disabled persons to achieve feats similar to his.

Pierce was born without a disability, but developed his blindness later in life. It was initially very difficult for him to come to terms with his situation, but in the end he was able to find new ways to live his old life, he said.

“I think the [the most important thing] is the notion of believing in yourself… I think it’s the ability emphasis that is key… whether you have a disability or not,” said Pierce.
Ingerman’s presentation was fourth in the series of CAMD scholar presentations this year. Her faculty advisors were Patricia Davison, Director of the Academic Skills Center, and Susanne Torabi, International Student Coordinator.