The student group Advocates for Disability Awareness (ADA) released a series of demands on Monday calling for the University to address a series of deficiencies in the way Hopkins currently accommodates students with disabilities. These demands, which are addressed to senior administrators, including President Ronald J. Daniels, were made in the wake of the dismissal of Dr. Brent Mosser. Mosser was the former director of academic support and disability services and served as an important advocate for students with disabilities on campus.
ADA’s demands outline not only the severe lack of resources dedicated towards students with disabilities but also include practical and concrete suggestions for how the University can improve. These demands are wide-ranging and call for changes such as increased staffing in the office of Student Disability Services (SDS) and the Counseling Center; increased training and awareness programs for students, faculty and staff; and resources to make accessibility services more available to students, such as an app that indicates which elevators on campus are working.
The current state of services and resources are inadequate. SDS is inconveniently located on the third floor of Garland Hall in a very small office suite. It currently has one full-time staff member, having recently lost Mosser, who was the primary liaison between students with disabilities and the administration.
The Counseling Center is another resource that students with disabilities rely on; however, ADA’s demands show that the Center is offering an unacceptable standard of service. The demands state that the Center currently recommends that students should only visit counseling for a semester and that counselors have turned away some students with disabilities, deeming them to be “too complicated to treat.”
The demands also highlight that there are no mechanisms in place to ensure that professors can properly accommodate for students with disabilities. These issues have also been highlighted by the recommendations presented in the recent report from the Mental Health Task Force, which point out the deficiencies in Counseling Center services and faculty awareness of student needs.
We recognize that the University has stated that it is working to improve disability services on campus from hiring an Americans with Disabilities Act Compliance officer to outlining some ways in which they plan to improve the Counseling Center. However, administrators have offered vague responses to many other demands. Fortunately, ADA has worked hard to provide specific solutions with clear deadlines.
For example, it is surprising that Hopkins does not already have an official accessibility map for handicapped students, and it is a practical step for the University to compile and distribute one. Additionally, training programs for students, faculty and staff will increase visibility and awareness and supplement other training programs already offered during events like freshman orientation. Finally, adding SDS to the Center for Diversity & Inclusion is an important step that would put SDS on similar footing with well-established offices like the Office for Multicultural Affairs and LGBTQ Life.
Throughout their list of demands, ADA proves that it has researched current University policies and how its demands fit into them. By using language and arguments from school documents like the Roadmap on Diversity and Inclusion, they highlight the steps that the University can take to fulfill its own outlined goals.
We believe that all students with disabilities — physical, intellectual or psychological — should receive the support that they need to thrive at Hopkins. When we were each accepted to Hopkins, each of us was accepted for the whole person that we are — including our passions, intellectual abilities, and yes, our disabilities. Implementing ADA’s well-researched, comprehensive demands is just a first step in the direction towards ensuring a positive experience for students with disabilities.