If prospective frosh Antonio Milane chooses to enroll at Stanford, the University is committing to “supporting his request for an academic scribe or typists to assist him with his out-of-classroom coursework needs,” wrote University spokesman E.J. Miranda in a statement to The Daily.
The decision comes days after Milane’s story went viral online. Milane, who has cerebral palsy, a movement disorder, was denied a scribe or typing assistance for homework, because according to Office of Accessible Education (OAE) Director Teri Adams, scribing is considered a “personal service.”
While Milane said that the University has not shared specific accommodations they will provide, he hopes to receive more detailed information and a formal commitment at a meeting tomorrow.
“There’s a lot of ways to get out of it — they can only accommodate me for 5 hours a day, 1 hour a day. I need to know how many hours a day they’re going to provide me that scribe. What does that look like?,” Milane said.
Milane’s case has sparked calls for increased accommodations for the broader disabled student community after he posted a video on Instagram explaining his predicament. He also encouraged viewers to sign a petition calling on the University to provide him with a scribe. The now-viral video received over 178,000 views and 1,282 comments, and the petition currently exceeds 58,000 digital signatures. Impact, an organization creating social justice content, also reposted the video on their Instagram page.
Undergraduate senators unanimously passed a resolution last week calling for the University to provide expanded scribing services to disabled students.
Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) President Vianna Vo ’20 said she has “been really heartwarmed by the amount of support” Milane has received. Vo hoped that this would result “not only in a change at Stanford but institutions in California or the U.S. more broadly.”
Alexis Kallen ’18, a current J.D. candidate at Yale Law School with cerebral palsy who currently works in the disability rights space, reached out to offer Milane support.
“I think it’s great that we are now moving towards this society that is realizing that people with disabilities, especially severe disabilities, can take up space in elite academic institutions but need policies and laws behind them to be able to get that space in a way that’s accessible for them,” Kallen said.
Kallen added that she thinks the disabilities rights movement has a long way to go, and that “it’s something that gets tossed aside too often.” She believes this is a “brilliant opportunity for Stanford to shine as a leader” and hopes that Stanford’s decision will influence other campuses across the country to also expand accommodations.
Milane echoed Kallen and said that “if Stanford sets the precedent, other schools will follow.”
Miranda also wrote that Stanford will launch a study group in the spring and a task force in the fall aimed at “looking at the totality of our disability programs and re-envisioning what the next era of disability access at Stanford should encompass.” He added that “As we evolve to meet the needs of our student community, we must ensure that our programs are consistent with our values as an inclusive university,”
Aylee Wu ’25, the prospective frosh who designed the artwork for graphics shared by the class of 2025 and Impact, said while Milane hadn’t received an official declaration, she was optimistic.
“I think this is a very momentous occasion for Antonio and hopefully, Stanford can continue providing those resources for students with those needs not just Antonio,” Wu said.
She added that the class of 2025 worked very hard to raise awareness about Antonio’s situation. Wu said the class of prospective frosh, including Antonio, recognized this was a first step and intend to continue advocating for disabled students on campus in the future.
Second-year sociology Ph.D. candidate Cat Sanchez ’19, who serves as co-chair of the Stanford Board on Judicial Affairs and student co-chair of the Stanford Disability Initiative, said the University’s commitment “is a step in the right direction.”
Sanchez added the COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed issues with accessibility accommodations, and she hopes that the study group and task force represent a commitment from the University to address these issues. Sanchez said the study group and task force should ensure that accommodations that fall outside of OAE coverage are addressed in a way that does not place the burden on students.
Some current and former students criticized the University’s decision to initiate a task force instead of committing to concrete policy changes and financial support for disabled students.
“I am so tired of task forces. There were task forces the whole time I advocated for change at Stanford. Make the changes. They already know what they are. Commit a dollar amount,” Brooke Vittimberga ’17 wrote on Twitter.
Vittimberga wrote that she had advocated for disability rights while a student at Stanford and questioned the lack of results. “Stanford isn’t confused. They’re implementing their favorite strategy — make a task force, make vague promises, make no real change.”
Milane said that, despite this experience, he could not see himself attending any school other than Stanford. He attributed much of this to the support that he received from the student body throughout this process.
“I have now so many friends at Stanford,” Milane said. “I want to meet these individuals who talk to me every day and who do all the work that is needed just to help me in this whole process.”
Milane said he did not think the University would have offered him a scribe without his advocacy efforts. He said multiple disabled students reached out to him describing their experiences with insufficient accommodations, and some students said they were unable to attend Stanford for these reasons.
“Their voice was never heard,” Milane said. “Luckily for me, I was able to push my narrative to the people and apply that pressure, but if I hadn’t that, I would be in the same situation as those other kids that had their dreams lost.”