New ramp to be added to counseling center
Hana Klempnauer Miller '25 advocated for funding for the new ramp, but her goals to address disability concerns won't stop there.
Students with disabilities cannot currently access the Brandeis Counseling Center because there is no American Disability Act-compliant accessible ramp. Instead of accessing the BCC Mailman House, Brandeis students with disabilities have the option to visit the counseling center in a multi-purpose room in the library accessible by elevator or via telehealth.
On Wednesday, March 5 the Student Union passed a resolution condemning Brandeis’ accessibility policies with the leadership of Student Union Director of Accessibility Hana Klempnauer Miller ’25. Miller’s objective was to gain funding from the Community Emergency and Enhancement Fund for a new accessible ramp at the BCC.
“Historically, the BCC has faced a lot of challenges and has a significant amount of work to do when it comes to rebuilding student trust, but I believe that this is a first step to moving forward. I have been working closely with the students who are leading the interview process for a new BCC director and improved policy reforms, and accessibility has been at the heart of all of these conversations,” Miller said in a March 31 interview with the Justice.
Director of Student Accessibility Support Cara Streit and Miller believe that students with disabilities should not face obstacles to mental health care, and they decided to apply for funding to make changes to the disability care policies at Brandeis, according to a March 31 interview with the Justice. Miller also said that students with disabilities were struggling after the bus crash in November and could not walk up the stairs to the BCC due to their impairment.
“Individuals with disabilities have reported a higher incidence of mental health struggles, and as someone with a disability who has struggled with their mental health, I can say from a first-person perspective that it is essential we make these resources accessible and welcoming to all members of our community,” Miller said.
“It seemed totally preposterous to me that Brandeis, a school who both identifies as a social justice institution and houses a research group on disability policy, would ignore the importance of accessible mental health support for its students,” Miller continued. She also referenced accounts from students who have been injured by attempting to use the stairs to the BCC because of mobility impairments. “Everyone deserves equal access, and I think that is particularly important with regard to mental health that we not make students with disabilities feel as though they don’t deserve to be in the same spaces as those without disabilities,” Miller added.
At first, the administration was going to cover the costs of the ramp, but they informed Miller that it would be too expensive. Then, Miller and Streit applied for CEEF funding to cover the ramp, citing their argument for the criticality of accessible mental health care on campus. According to Miller, the BCC ramp has been the most requested renovation for the past five years. The new ramp will be funded through CEEF funding as well as the ADA Projects budget.
“This is a big win, don’t get me wrong, and it’s one that I’m intensely proud of, but it doesn’t go as far as it could had there been more institutional support. Student money is paying for over a third of this project. A THIRD. Nearly every major accessibility win in the past five years has been because of and/or funded by students,” Miller said.
The lack of accessibility inside and outside Brandeis buildings and facilities, according to Miller, is isolating and further exacerbates the lack of inclusion. Miller hopes to gain more funding through Brandeis Student Accessibility Services for other ramps to be added around campus, such as outside Golding Judaica in the Mandel Humanities Quad, as well as door openers for Sherman Dining Hall.
“The SAS budget is $60,000 a year, which is so small that their own employees don’t get paid out of it. SAS is trying to win a war that they haven’t been given the tools to fight. Senior Brandeis Administration [love] to think of accessibility as either a hypothetical that doesn’t need to be addressed or as some kind of mountain that we would have to move heaven and Earth to accommodate,” Miller said.
Miller’s funding request was successful, and the Student Union’s resolution urged administration to listen to student demands and honor their promise to be inclusive and accessible for all of the Brandeis community. Overall, the funding request and resolution are meant to build greater inclusivity and provide space for those with disabilities to thrive on campus.