The claim that Sandy Hook Elementary School’s parking lot was not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and as such is further evidence that the school was non-operational in December of 2012 isn’t a new one, but it is relatively minor, which is one of the reasons I haven’t pursued it as doggedly as usual. It’s not that I haven’t tried, it’s just that the experts I’ve reached out to over the years – and I like to try and speak with actual experts whenever possible, rather than speculate wildly – never really bothered to get back to me. But I’ve never stopped looking for definitive answers and now, with some help from the New England ADA Center, I finally have some. My persistence – or ability to profoundly annoy, depending on who are you – finally paid off.
Let’s start by taking a look at the actual claims that have made about the school’s lot by some of the usual suspects…
On page six of “Nobody Died At Sandy Hook: It Was A FEMA Drill To Promote Gun Control”, James Fetzer writes:
Here is a photograph of the school taken the day of the shooting. Notice that the handicapped parking areas are not properly demarcated with white paint and blue markings. There are no ‘above grade signs with white letting against a blue background’ that bear the words ‘handicapped parking permit required’ and ‘violators will be fined’, which means that Sandy Hook Elementary School was non-ADA compliant.
Later, on page thirty-two, “Dr. Eowyn” (aka Maria Hsia Chang) expands on that same claim quite a bit, writing:
Although the CNN image on the next page shows a wheelchair symbol painted on a parking space closest to the school’s front door, it is not painted in the now-familiar blue and white colors that have become ubiquitous certainly by 2012.
As an example, an August 22, 2011 article by Debbie Moore for My Parking Sign stated:
Americans with Disabilities Act signed in 1990 … details guidelines for every public area that needs to provide with ample accessibility options for the disabled….
ADA states the following rules that need to be followed while posting accessibility signs in designated areas –
The international symbol of accessibility should be posted on all accessible parking spaces marking the reserved spot. The accessibility symbol is the well-known picture of a person using a wheelchair on top of a blue background.
Van-accessible parking spaces to have additional ‘text’ or ‘sign’ below the accessibility symbol to mark the van-accessible area specifically.
Signs should be placed at such a height (at least 60 inches above surface) that they do not get obscured by any parked vehicles or other obstructions. ADA handicap parking signs (commonly known as Access Signs) posted must be viewable from the drivers’ seat of the vehicle and located right in view of parking spaces.
But aerial images of SHES’s parking lot, including the CNN image, show no blue-and-white signage for designated handicap parking spaces, which would make the school in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the subsequent ADA Amendments Act of 2008 that broadened the meaning of disabilities.
Fetzer revisits the claim one final time on page thirty-nine:
For those who are less familiar with the background of the Sandy Hook hoax, here is a summary of key aspects, which include ample proof that the school had been closed by 2008, which included that it was not compliant with Connecticut laws implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act, where there is a complete absence of the familiar white-and-blue parking areas and corresponding signage
Let’s start with the idea that the parking spaces themselves must be painted white and blue specifically. While Fetzer provides no source for his claim on either page, Chang’s is myparkingsign.com, which is – you guessed it – a website that sells parking signs. Why would a former professor cite a niche retail website rather than the actual, original ADA standards, which are easily found on the ADA website? Probably because they make no reference whatsoever to paint colors when describing either the symbols of accessibility (section 4.30.7) or parking spaces (section 4.6.3), which would explain why almost none of the handicapped parking spaces located at Newtown’s public schools were painted in such a manner:
Hawley School: white paint only.
Head O’Meadow: yellow paint only.
Reed Intermediate: white paint only.
Newtown Middle School: white paint only.
Newtown High School is the only school in the entire district to have had blue and white handicapped parking spaces back in 2012, and that’s only after they added an additional lot (and renovated their side lot) in 2010:
Satellite photos taken before renovations completed show Newtown High School’s handicapped parking spots were, like Hawley, Reed, and Newtown Middle School, simply painted white:
Are we expected to believe that only one of Newtown’s eight public schools – including all four elementary schools and both intermediate/middle schools – were non-compliant in 2012, and therefore non-operational? What about the former Chalk Hill Middle School, the building the Sandy Hook School students are alleged to have been secretly moved to prior to the shooting? Surely their parking lot has blue and white parking spaces, and is therefore is ADA compliant:
So the blue and white paint claim is a total fabrication on the part of Fetzer and Chang, confirmed as such not only by my own research but by an ADA trainer and information and outreach specialist from the aforementioned New England ADA Center who told me via e-mail:
“The ADA Standards for Accessible Design do not specify the color of the lines and markings at accessible parking spaces.”
But what about the signs? The above satellite photos aren’t as useful in this case, though if I were to make a guess based on visible shadows (of lack thereof), there do not appear to be any signs posted at Head O’Meadow or Reed Intermediate. Luckily we don’t need to guess based on shadows as the same New England ADA Center employee mentioned earlier was kind enough to also shed some light on the actual requirements for handicapped parking signage:
“If the parking lot was built or has been paved or restriped since January 26, 1992, accessible parking spaces that comply with the ADA Standards for Accessible Design are required. The ADA Standards for Accessible Design do not specify the color of the lines and markings at accessible parking spaces. White is permitted. The Standards specify a sign on a post that is 60” min. to the bottom of the sign.
If the last work on the parking lot was completed before the ADA went into effect on January 26, 1992, only state law that was in effect at that time would apply. We do not have information on Connecticut requirements for parking lots that far back.”
There is no evidence that I could find that the Sandy Hook School parking lot has been paved or restriped since January, 1992. However, if you look at satellite photos taken of the school between August, 2010 and March, 2012, you’ll notice that stripes were added to the fire lane. Does that count as restriping? Not according to our ADA trainer and information specialist, who writes:
“Striping a previously unstriped yet existing fire zone by itself would not be considered restriping a parking lot.”
So there is no proof that the parking lot at Sandy Hook Elementary School was not ADA compliant in December of 2012. Or ever for that matter. It’s a silly claim to make in the first place as deniers like Fetzer, Chang, and Wolfgang Halbig do not dispute that the school was open and fully operational prior to 2008. And if signs are required without exception by the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (which went into effect in January of 1992) , then they tacitly acknowledge that the school would have been non-compliant for seventeen years. What’s four more at that point?
Of course that’s not the case. Even if it were, and the school had been non-compliant, what exactly would that mean? Can an elementary school be in violation of the ADA and remain open? A two-year federal investigation found that 83% of New York City’s elementary schools were in violation of the ADA, but obviously they did not shut them all down. So I once again asked the expert what non-compliance actually means in real life:
“An individual could file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice or the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. The agency would review the complaint. In a settlement, the district would agree to fix the identified issues, and there could be a fine. A school would not be closed due to the violation.“