Students with disabilites demand better resources – the johns hopkins news-letter

“He was such an ally and a voice to us,” she said. “I would always email him directly, and clearly that’s not really a possibility anymore. It definitely should have been a step to alert students with disabilities, those registered with accommodations, of who to report to now.”

ADA’s other demands outline plans for initiatives that will make the campus more accommodating for students with disabilities, specifically by providing on-campus transportation, an official accessibility map of campus and a website where students can track when elevators and accessible door buttons are broken.

They also call for improved resources, like a larger office for Student Disabilities Services (SDS) and increased staffing.

According to ADA members, the current office is smaller than some study rooms in Brody and is often inaccessible since the office is on the third floor of Garland Hall and the elevator in the building is frequently out of service.

Additionally, ADA demands the school increase staffing at the counseling center by hiring more therapists and psychiatrists that specialize in treating attention deficit disorders. They also want the Counseling Center to end a policy which limits students to a maximum number of visits per semester and implement a policy of never turning away students in need of services.

“Hopkins is renowned for its medical programs and medical school, but you come to this campus and you’re like, ‘Wait, it’s not wheelchair accessible.’ There’s a shortage of psychologists and psychiatrists at the Counseling Center and there’s only currently one full time staff member at the SDS,” she said.

The demands also include training and education for students, faculty and staff. ADA wants the University to require training for all faculty and staff that directly interact with students. They would also like disability awareness to be a larger part of student orientation, with pre-orientation opportunities specifically for students with disabilities.

ADA members emphasized that educating students and staff could increase sensitivity and awareness on campus. Sophomore Madelynn Wellons said that providing trainings for students and staff would improve the culture on campus surrounding disabilities.

ADA also demanded that the school create coursework that discusses disability in the context of diversity. They stated that disabilities should be included as a central part of the Roadmap to Diversity and Inclusion, a document that outlines the University’s plans to make the campus more diverse. ADA also wants SDS to be added to the Center for Diversity and Inclusion.

Members also emphasized that including students with disabilities in diversity initiatives will help raise awareness on campus for students with disabilities. Junior Chris Reinhardt emphasized that these demands are important to providing students with disabilities a voice on campus.

“Giving us a voice is actually very, very crucial. A lot of people who are able don’t think about accommodations,” he said. “If you don’t experience something, and if you don’t have problems with something, you’re not going to think that might be a problem for someone else.”

While ADA’s demands detail specific plans and initiatives to improve resources for students with disabilities, their ultimate goal is to change the culture and environment on campus. For many students with disabilities, navigating Homewood Campus can be difficult, both in the physical challenges it poses and in the stigma that is present in daily interactions.

“It seems really abstract to change these opinions on campus,” Epstein said. “It would really be excellent to have more sensitivity around the issue on campus. There’s a lot of concrete steps that can be taken to achieve that really abstract goal.”

“Disability is — on a personal level — something that is part of our diverse identity. Everyday we have to think about it; we have to manage it,” he said. “When I’m taking my medication, I have to think about it. When I’m ordering food for a certain class that provides food and they only bring pizza every time, how do I manage that?”

Reinhardt added that able-bodied students may not understand how difficult even the task of buying coffee from Brody Cafe is for someone with a physical disability. He said that the elevators are often out of service, which means that students have to take inconvenient alternative paths, going outside and around the library.

In an email to The News-Letter, Vice Provost Kevin Shollenberger explained that he and other administrators have met with ADA members to discuss their demands and concerns. He wrote that they are committed to making the campus inclusive for all students.

“We have already made progress on some of the Advocates for Disability Awareness’ concerns related to staffing, online scheduling, and community education,” he wrote. “We are currently working with a variety of partners, including the Office of Institutional Equity, and Facilities & Real Estate among others, to assess the best ways of addressing the remaining issues. We will remain in contact with students to keep them updated on our progress.”

“Later this spring, we will launch a search for a new leader in Homewood Student Affairs to oversee disability support services for full-time students in the Krieger and Whiting schools, engaging students, faculty, and staff in that process,” he wrote. “Along with the new ADA Compliance Officer, this new leader will help implement recommendations from the consultants’ reports and respond to concerns of our students.”