Accessible infrastructure and quality accessibility support services are essential for a campus to be inclusive and welcoming to students with disabilities. However, the University has been slow to implement more accessibility renovations and to staff the Student Accessibility Support Office. This board believes that helping students with disabilities thrive on campus needs to be a higher priority for the administration. Brandeis often advertises itself as an institution that champions social justice and fosters a diverse student body. However, an inaccessible campus demonstrates that more progress is needed in order to honor these values. 

Many on-campus housing options lack important accessibility features. Few of them have elevators, automatic doors or accessible pathways to the dorms. Academic buildings have the same problems –– it’s difficult to enter the Mandel Quad, and many buildings in the quad do not have a ramp, such as the Mandel Center for the Humanities, Shiffman, Golding Judaica and Olin-Sang. While there is yellow paint on the edges of the stairs leading to the Mandel Center, many other staircases lack paint to make the contrast between stairs more visible for people with visual impairments. There is also a lack of tactile walking surface indicators, and adding them near crosswalks and stairs could help students with disabilities. 

While it’s true that the Brandeis Counseling Center installed a ramp due much in part to the Student Union’s efforts, most other buildings do not have said features. The stairwells in certain buildings can be an issue as well. The Farber Library has two flights of steps leading to the Farber Mezzanine with railings attached to the wall in such a way that one cannot grip it continuously when using the stairs. Libraries and other study spots should be more accessible to provide students with disabilities the spaces they need to complete their work.  Additionally, while the Brandeis Counseling Center finally has gotten a ramp, it is still up to Americans with Disabilities Act standards as they don’t have handrails on both sides. 

The Student Accessibility Support Office does not have a director, which leaves an important office without permanent leadership. While the board recognizes the hard work of the SAS and its student SAS Fellows, the office needs more staff in order to run smoothly. 

Communication is also a key component. Strong advertising of what disability services are available and how to contact people for requests is needed in order for students with disabilities to receive the resources they need. Interdepartmental communication is essential, so departments like Academic Services are aware of accessibility features they can implement in their emails, events and services. 

The lack of adequate accessibility policies is concerning in three respects. First of all, having proper housing on campus is extremely important since all students have a right to safe, functioning dorms. Juniors and seniors with disability accommodations are not guaranteed housing, and while the board understands that the University does not have the capacity to house all students, finding off-campus housing could be burdensome for students with disabilities. As discussed in a previous editorial, this off-campus housing can also come with its own safety hazards and health concerns.

Not only is off-campus housing not affordable for everyone, it also may not come with the requisite features for students with disabilities, and landlords can exhibit bias against them. Moreover, living off campus introduces many more areas where students need accessibility. Transportation to and from the University must be consistent, allow enough time to get on and get off for students who need it, include accessibility features such as ramps, ensure there is extra space for wheelchairs, and include signage in accessible formats. Extending more routes, such as including the campus route on the weekends, allows students’ schedules to be more flexible. In addition, delays caused by Massachusetts winter weather increase the amount of time it takes to get to school, which already adds to the time students need to get to classes in buildings that are inaccessible. 

Additionally, requiring students with disabilities to plan ahead to get to a class or make a reservation for a service is time and energy consuming. Students with disabilities should be able to do these things automatically, and asking them to put in more effort on their part adds an extra element of stress on top of stress from academics. Much of the more “accessible” housing, including Ziv Quad and Ridgewood Quad which have elevators, are located at the bottom of campus, an accessibility issue in and of itself because it’s at the base of a hill. Other quads on campus that may be located in more accessible locations are not accessible themselves. Both Deroy and Renfield Halls in Massell Quad have doors with ramps that open into a stairwell. This board questions the purpose of such a feature if someone with a wheelchair or mobility issues can get up a ramp but not any further into the building. 

As noted in a previous editorial, the administration does not provide strong support for clubs and organizations. This is problematic for students with disabilities because events may not be held in accessible places. This cuts off students with disabilities from social, academic and career-building events and causes them to miss out on important opportunities. Moreover, not being able to engage with the community adds a sense of isolation which can negatively impact mental health. 

All students deserve access to the academics, extracurriculars, and social life offered by this community, and the administration must create more accessibility initiatives that facilitate success for students with disabilities.