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College submits first phase of ADA settlement agreement

Orchard Meadow is one of the 296 items in need of alteration according to the DOJ agreement. (Emily Mibach)
Orchard Meadow is one of the 296 items in need of alteration according to the DOJ agreement. (Emily Mibach)

Mills College continues to respond to a settlement agreement with the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) by submitting a report of the first set of alterations to the campus.

According to Linda Zitzner, assistant vice president for Operations, the College completed all but three alterations submitted in the Dec. 31 report. The remaining three alterations were not finished until Jan. 5 and were then included in a Jan. 7 updated compliance report.  Campus architect Karen Feeney worked closely with the report and took updated photos of the alterations to send in so that the DOJ can compare past and present photos.

Mills settled with the DOJ on Jan. 30, 2013 to alter 296 items on campus to comply with Title III of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, which allows for more accessibility to facilities for people with disabilities.

The three updates that were not included until the Jan. 7 updated report related to having a companion chair and wheelchair space in the Danforth Lecture Hall and the Music Building.

The next alterations are due in a report on Dec. 31 of 2017 and 2023, with yearly compliance reports due on Dec. 31. The College has already completed some alterations that are due in 2017 such as the location of hooks and soap dispensers in the locker rooms.

“In Haas [Pavillion], where [the DOJ] had observations they had put in 2014 and 2017, it was actually more cost-effective for us that once we went in and tore up the locker rooms that we do everything all at once, so we pulled some of the 2017 observations into 2014,” Zitzner said. “So we’ll continue to work toward both the 2017 and the 2023 deadlines even before those due. And report out to the DOJ on that progress.”

Out of the 176 updates listed in Appendix A of the Settlement Agreement, 19 locations listed in Mills Hall are exempt because of the building’s status as a historical landmark.

“In Mills Hall, where the non-compliant door width of the office and meeting rooms cannot be architecturally remedied because of historic preservation concerns, the College shall provide an alternative to barrier removal by relocating classes or meetings to accessible rooms if required,” the Settlement Agreement reads. The Settlement Agreement can be viewed online at

Zitzner said that some  alterations were remedied over this past winter break.

“For example, we had a problem behind the mail and copy center because there was a [barrier] right in the middle of the path there, and a wheelchair couldn’t get through,” Zitzner said. “We had some broken asphalt down in the corner behind the library where one of the wheelchairs’ wheel got stuck and flipped the chair.”

The College works closely with the Services for Students with Disabilities Coordinator, Gabriella Tempesto, though she mostly works with things related to learning disabilities while Zitzner focuses on physical obstacles and barriers.

Tempesto did not have a comment for The Campanil.

“We’re always working with who have observed or have concerns or whatever to either create reasonable accommodations or to make whatever areas they need to work or study accessible,” Zitzner said.