BOG 2015: Opening Doors for Students with Disabilities
In a landmark moment for Israeli higher education, Tel Aviv University inaugurated the Mia and Mile Pinkas Accessible Learning Center at its May 2015 annual Board of Governors Meeting. The Center, based at the Sourasky Central Library at the heart of the TAU campus, provides much needed services to students with disabilities, allowing them to complete their degrees with ease and comfort.
The Center is the inspired vision of TAU Governor Haim Mile Pinkas and his wife, Mia Pinkas, for whom it is named. The Pinkas family, originally from Yugoslavia prior to immigrating to Venezuela, has supported Tel Aviv University for more than three decades with a focus on medicine and life sciences, including initiatives like the Gabriel Pinkas Chair for the Prevention and Diagnosis of Congenital Anomalies. Mia and Mile Pinkas’ son, incoming TAU Governor Miguel Pinkas, accompanied by Marsha Talianoff, was presented with a certificate at the inauguration ceremony for the Accessible Learning Center, as his parents and brother, Daniel, looked on via video conference from their home in Geneva, Switzerland. Also present at the ceremony were TAU President Joseph Klafter, TAU Vice President for Resource Development Amos Elad, Director of the Unit for Student Advancement Limor Shem-Tov, Campus Social Worker Ilana Kaufmann, Executive Assistant to the Director General on Accessibility Issues Mariela Yabo and several students who benefit from the new Accessible Learning Center.
TAU Governor Miguel Pinkas with students who will be using the Mia and Mile Pinkas Accessible Learning Center. Photo: Michal Roche-Ben Ami
“My mother was about to celebrate her 90th birthday and my father his 95th, when we decided that we needed a way to celebrate life,” Pinkas said at the inauguration ceremony, adding that he was very happy to see the Center up and running so quickly, particularly because it was important to his parents to have a real and immediate impact on the lives of TAU students. “We are so happy and so honored to be partners with Tel Aviv University,” he added, before placing the mezuzah on the Center’s door frame. “There are many good things to come.”
In addition to the Accessible Learning Center, the Mia and Mile Pinkas Fund will offer scholarships and essential services for students with disabilities, including mentors to accompany students to lectures and help with their studies, career workshops and psychological support as needed.
Prof. Klafter warmly thanked the Pinkas family, telling them, “You are not only assisting students with disabilities to reach their full academic potential, but you are also advancing the University's wider mission of inclusivity and opportunity for students throughout Israel.”
The Mia and Mile Pinkas Accessible Learning Center offers multi-level support for the students at TAU with disabilities. It includes new state-of-the-art facilities, providing a space for students to study and collaborate on assignments using specialized equipment.
Among the students who spoke at the ceremony and expressed their gratitude for the new center were first-year student at the Jaime and Joan Constantiner School of Education, Karin Gorelick, who is deaf and has a degenerative visual impairment, and graduate student at the Iby and Aladar Fleischman Faculty of Engineering, Harel Cohen, who is visually impaired. Gorelick told her story of overcoming challenges at the inauguration via sign-language interpreters. “I may have a long way to go and many struggles ahead, but I won’t let my disabilities stop me,” she said.