He Came Up With a Wheelchair Challenge. It Landed Him in the White House.


Archer Hadley was stuck outside the front doors of his high school in Austin, Texas on a rainy day last fall. The 18-year-old has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, so some tasks, like opening heavy doors, are difficult for him. As he worked to pry open the school doors just enough to slip inside the building, he realized how he could make his high school more accessible — he would work with the school on installing automatic doors at three of its entrances.

When he was told the doors would cost $40,000, Hadley created the “Wheelchair Challenge,” a fundraiser where students at Austin High School challenged each other to spend one full day in a wheelchair. When a student challenged someone, he or she paid $20 to go toward building the doors. His project caught on, and people who don’t attend the school began sending in donations. Hadley raised more than $87,000, enough to make every entrance at Austin High School more accessible for students using wheelchairs, KXAN News reported.

Meanwhile, some of Hadley’s classmates were catching his story on camera. They compiled his project into a short documentary, The Archer Hadley Story, which was among 15 student-made films selected from more than 1,500 submissions to screen at the second annual White House Student Film Festival, Disability Scoop reported. Festival submissions all focus on service and giving back to the community. President Barack Obama honored the students’ efforts at the White House on Friday, March 20. Hadley and the students who made the film attended.

“Archer is giving back to his community by providing the ability for students, faculty and any visitor who comes to our school to feel welcome,” Nicole Griffith, Director of the Academy of Global Studies at Austin High School, says in the documentary below. “This project is going to help the community for years to come.”

Watch the entire documentary about Hadley’s project below.

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