Dignifying do-it-yourself for Longmont teen

Lyza Weisman calls her "bag of tricks" everything from pushing her glasses up the bridge of her nose with the eraser end of a pencil to drinking through a straw — both simple tools that help her reach just above her shoulders near the ceiling of her upward range of motion.

Reality is that the wheelchair-bound Skyline High School freshman needs help in the bathroom and in the shower due to a genetic condition — spinal muscular atrophy — that causes weakness and wasting in muscles due to a loss of specialized nerve cells.

So, she stubbornly uses the pencil, the straw, and other manipulatives and manipulations of her body to continue mastering as many ordinary self-care movements as possible for as long as possible — from writing to feeding herself to applying makeup, she said.

This explains why Weisman, 14, and her family vetoed the St. Vrain Valley School District's plan last summer to automate the elevator before the first day of school that takes 14 seconds to run between the floors at the two-story high school.

"I like that I still have to do something instead of just walking in front of it. I want to do the work just like everybody else. I want to got to Harvard. I can't get there by just slacking off," she said.

However, given Weisman's range of motion limitations, she could not reach the stainless steel keyhole panel mounted in the brick wall right of the double doors to turn the lock with a conventional key to call the elevator.

The district planned to invest between $2,500 to $3,000 to upgrade the Montgomery Dependable Elevator manufactured in Moline, Ill., and installed in 1977 at Skyline, Adam Hazel, the district's Low Volt Lead on the project, said.

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