NEWS: Student rises to the challenge; advocates for accessibility

Sophomore Ollie Wojczynski (they/them) next to PEHS elevator

Daniella Torres

Sophomore Ollie Wojczynski (they/them) next to PEHS elevator


How can public spaces be made more inclusive, especially for those with specific needs? Sophomore Ollie Wojczynski wonders this themselves and hopes to spark change.

As a student with a disability, they have used their struggles to fuel their passion towards installing a second elevator in the building, providing an inclusive learning environment.

The idea to install a second elevator in the school is a result of Wojczynski’s own experience. The stress and alienation that comes with a disability is an everyday struggle for them. They hope to alleviate the burden for future Plainfield East High School students and staff, not only for those with disabilities, but for those with injuries and teachers using carts to travel from class to class.

In order to put their plan into action, Wojczynski has kept in contact with one of the Assistant Principals at Plainfield East, Dr. Romeli, who was able to connect them with District 202’s maintenance supervisor. Romeli said, “I am kind of a message person. I don’t necessarily have much sway in terms of what projects go on in the building […] that’s usually at the district level.”

Wojczynski, as well as several other students in the building, struggle to get to and from their classes as they have to plan their schedules around the elevator location. Although these students receive an extended amount of time added to the five minute passing period, Wojczynski suggests that many times they prefer not to use it as it is a point of question from other students. Since the elevator is located in the 100s and its corresponding upstairs hallway, they find themselves making daily trips back and forth between the entire building. Wojczynski said, “Calling for accessibility is the biggest thing that we need right now […] just taking a moment to realize that different people have different needs.”

Nonetheless, any project involving permanent change to the structure of a building comes with its hindrances. If a second elevator were to be installed at Plainfield East, there would need to be installation at the three other Plainfield high schools. There is a budget to consider, and the difficulties of construction as well. Romeli said, “With the buildings, a lot of times the elevator shafts and things like that, are the first point of construction”. 

Despite the limited authority, Wojczynski remains hopeful for the future of this project. They plan to have completed their goal of installing a second elevator by the end of their senior year, in order to alleviate the struggle for future PEHS students.

Both Wojczynski and Dr. Romeli believe in the importance of inclusivity and accessibility in public spaces. Romeli said, “I love having students advocate for things they are passionate about. If there was something that someone was passionate about and they wanted to talk to somebody about it […] it’s definitely worth conversation.”

Although Wojczynski finds it hard to believe that adults are willing to hear the voice of a disabled student, they said they “hope that people see this as a reason to go after what they believe in because if you don’t try, then you don’t know if it’s ever going to happen.”