Student leads safety changes for those with disabilities | #schoolsaftey

A Greece Athena High School freshman is calling for a new look on school safety procedures for those with disabilities.

For Giana Bisnett, her freshman year has been fun.

“But it’s been not fun for evacuations because I would just have to like wait in the stairwell,” Bisnett said.

She says she has difficulty with fire drills in the three-story school building because Giana was born with spina bifida.

“So I’m missing nine ribs and I’m paralyzed from the waist down,” Bisnett said. 

The school’s evacuation procedures are in compliance with the letter of the law.

“With an area of refuge that is communicative with the fire department,” Athena High School Principal Kelly Flagler said. “But really the spirit of the law is to help our individuals with disabilities feel that the evacuation procedures are at the same level for their non-disabled peers.”

But for Giana, fire drills were a wake-up call about the school’s current safety plan for individuals in wheelchairs.

“If this was a serious drill I would die,” Bisnett said.

This is why through her connection with the EmpowHer, an organization that empowers young ladies with disabilities, she is bringing evacuation chairs to her high school in the fall.

“Giana found a way to offer guidance and advice for us as school officials to reconsider how we consider our evacuation procedures for individuals in wheelchairs,” said Flagler.

The evacuation chair allows an individual to be strapped into the chair and easily glided down the steps.

“I spoke to the school board and I’m like, ‘We need to order these for here, Athena and or all of the schools in Greece,’” said Bisnett.

But she isn’t stopping there.

“We get to talk to senators in D.C. and I’m going to try to push them to make it a law for the chairs to be in every school in New York state,” she said.

She’s not letting her disability slow her down, especially during fire drills.

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