High school senior in wheelchair couldn't go to prom

High school senior in wheelchair couldn't go to prom »Play Video
Adam Goeken (center) in a photo taken before Saturday's prom.

LAKE OSWEGO, Ore. – A Lake Oswego High School senior couldn’t get into prom last weekend because the venue didn’t have wheelchair access.

Adam Goeken uses a mechanized wheelchair. The prom was on the second floor of the Bossanova Ballroom, with no elevator and no wheelchair access.

A school administrator suggested the other senior boys carry Adam and his 400 pound wheelchair up the stairs, but they decided that wasn’t safe. Adam went home instead.

Monday, Rep. Sara Gelser of Corvallis shared Adam’s story on the Oregon House floor.

“Accessibility is not something that’s a convenience. It is not something that is a kindness,” Gelser said. “Adam had a basic right to expect that he could attend the same prom as his classmates.”

Gelser said what happened Saturday night violated a host of state and federal laws.

“Adam is an equal member of that senior class and there are students like him all across the state,” said Gelser.

The Bossanova Ballroom website says the venue is accessible for people with disabilities, but there is no elevator. "If you are or have someone that is in a wheelchair please call for our wheelchair accessibility options," it says.

"We don't have an elevator here," said ballroom manager Phil Hearne. "Our policy is to carry them up the stairs."

Hearne said employees have done that many times. Adam's mother decided against the idea and took him home.

"It seemed like she was more frustrated with the fact she's been battling this his whole life and this is a constant battle for her and her family to have to overcome," Hearne said.

Lake Oswego High School Principal Bruce Plato says the buck stops with him. It was up to the school to make sure the dance venue was accessible to wheelchairs, he said.

"It was devastating," said Plato. "It was devastating to Adam. It was devastating to us. It was devastating to his classmates who couldn't share the prom with him."

"We made a mistake. We were wrong," Plato said. "We made an assumption that the building was accessible."

The building with the ballroom inside was built more than 100 years ago. It can't have an elevator because of structural issues.

"This was just a mistake. The thing is, though, the law was still broken," said Cheryl Goeken, Adam's mother. "It wasn't really any one person's fault, but people need to be aware of these issues."

"Adam's part of the change," said Plato. "Because of him, this won't happen to students in the future at our school, and that's a positive thing."