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Accessibility requires personnel training

Teachers and paraprofessionals need to learn how to help students without injuring themselves
Each portable Ascension wheelchair lift has a control panel outside and inside, which allows passengers to operate the lift themselves unless they have assistance.

Districts need to train teachers and paraprofessionals on assisting students with disabilities without injuring themselves or the student. Part of that training must include being aware of every students’ specific needs, says Kathy Espinoza, assistant vice president, ergonomics and safety for Keenan, an insurance brokerage firm.

Espinoza trains teachers and school staff to properly lift students with mobility impairments. “Students may have brittle bones or attempt to go limp when being lifted,” she says. “These are things to be aware of and prepare for.”

Training should include demonstrations of proper lifting techniques, such as lifting with the legs, not tugging on the student’s arm joints, and minimizing the amount of space between the student’s wheelchair and the location to which they are being transferred, Espinoza says.

Teachers also must make sure paraprofessionals understand they have a role in assisting students with disabilities, says Cathy Longstroth, a specialist for the Utah Personnel Development Center. “As disabled students are integrated into general education classrooms, teachers need to know how to be able to help paraeducators best serve these students,” she says.

Marilyn Likins, the director of the National Resource Center for Paraeducators, says that teachers should provide paraeducators with frequent and constructive feedback through coaching and modelling. Teachers also should hold student progress meetings with their paraeducators as often as possible.

Such support needs to come from the administrative level, adds Likins. “Administrators need to support the special education teacher-paraeducator teams, and also recognize and provide for necessary training.”