Students with disabilities can still depend on campus

UC Berkeley is committed to providing a broad array of services to the more than 1,800 students who are part of the Disabled Students Program, or DSP. Our 34-person DSP staff assists students with everything from arranging for academic accommodations and proctoring services to sign language interpretation and mobility consultations.  

Last month, the California Department of Rehabilitation, or DOR, made significant changes to a grant program, Workability IV, known as WAIV, which provided funding for career services for 60 of our 1,800 DSP students. With less than one month’s notice and after reviewing the regulations, guidelines and the limitations of the contract, we made the decision to discontinue the DOR contract and put in its place a new model of services that would do the following:

Increase the number of students served.

Provide access for a broad range of disabilities.

Allow for innovative services to students and new partnerships with other campus student services including Career Services.

Create a tiered approach to service delivery, including general career services to support all students with disabilities and targeted and tailored services to meet the needs of students with need for support beyond academic accommodations.

We have met and will continue to meet with our DSP students to be sure that their voices are heard and that they are fully engaged as we re-envision our service delivery model. Our students are our highest priority.

DSP has reassigned one of its disability specialists to coordinate and co-facilitate the intensive support sessions for students who were formerly under the DOR contract. This will largely focus on students who are on the autism spectrum and students who have mental health disabilities as these students face added obstacles in navigating a large university environment. The weekly session will open up with a reception for students and parents Oct. 13 to support the relationship building that is also an important component of our work.

Additionally, in partnership with Career Services, we are in the process of hiring a career services/disability specialist who will work in the Career Center and support all DSP students. This model will allow the specialist to utilize all of the resources of the Career Center and provide greater services than the limitation of the DOR contract.  

And finally, we are excited to partner with our students as we build upon the rich history of the Disability Rights Movement at Berkeley and create a dynamic and robust disability services program at UC Berkeley. Within the next few weeks, DSP will roll out an informed and engaged plan for an updated service model for DSP, which will include both comprehensive career services for students with disabilities and support services to help students navigate, survive and thrive in the university environment.

Na’ilah Nasir is the vice chancellor for equity and inclusion and Karen Kielson is the DSP program director.

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