By Jamie Schmitz
You don’t see very many eighth graders at meetings on Monday nights, but Simon Beacom is doing something not many other eighth graders would even think of.
Beacom stood in front of the Neligh-Oakdale School Board at their Monday night meeting to explain his concern on handicapped accessibility at the school.
“Not a lot of people take the time to realize what it would be like if I was a student in a wheelchair or if I was a grandparent coming to watch the students play or anything,” Beacom explained.
He started to realize just how inaccessible Neligh-Oakdale is when one of his elderly neighbors had problems making it to the games.
“I first thought of the idea when I met an elderly gentleman he lived up the road from me and he didn’t miss a game,” Beacom said. “He used a walker at first and then became wheel chair dependent. I realized we had a problem when he was sitting in between the two bleachers. Then he was at the football field and the restroom at the field was very hard and then became impossible for him to use.”
In his presentation to the school board, he broke it down to three main concerns.
First the gymnasium could have a cut out in the bleachers for wheelchairs. He proposed that they cut the corner of the bottom row up to the backrest.
Beacom told of when he helped a handicapped woman at a game in Ewing, where they did have handicapped accessibility.
“She got to sit in the middle of the crowd and she was pretty proud of that because it was the first time in a small town area that she has been able to do that.”
Then, he addressed the west sidewalk on the outside of the football field. He said the sidewalk should be placed from the basketball pavement to the sidewalk on the perimeter of the football field fence line.
Last, he informed the board that the restrooms at the football field are not compliant with American’s with Disabilities Act requirements. He said the stalls needs to be wider, handrails need to be added, and different toilets and urinals need to be installed.
Beacom has previously talked to school officials before his presentation to the board on Monday night.
He has had help from the FCCLA teacher on the presentation and his dad with the research, otherwise it is all Beacom’s doing.
Although there was discussion or action taken at the meeting, Beacom says that he will continue to work on the project and he hopes to get more support from the community.
“I think it can happen,” Beacom said. "I think that if a small town comes together, we can fix the problem.”
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