Here’s how to get academic accommodations from the Disabled Students’ Program

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Lorenz Gonzales/File

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As the spring semester begins, students and faculty are hard at work scanning syllabi and crunching calendars. But for hundreds of campus graduate and undergraduate students, preparing for the coming semester also means finding accommodations for disabilities.

From webcast captioning services and separately proctored exams to note-taking and interpretation services, the Disabled Students’ Program, or DSP, provides academic accommodations to a diverse body of more than 1,600 campus graduate and undergraduate students.

DSP accommodates disabilities including visual and hearing impairment, limited mobility, learning and psychological disabilities, as well as temporary conditions such as injuries. There are significantly more conditions eligible for accommodations, which are listed on the DSP website.

For Maureen Lahiff, a lecturer and academic coordinator in the School of Public Health, providing accommodations does not create an imposition upon her. What does upset her, however, is the knowledge that some students suffer from disabilities without accommodations for fear of reaching out, she said.

“When a student comes up to me, shaking, after a midterm and tells me they’re on prescription medication for anxiety, it just breaks my heart,” said Lahiff. “And all I can tell them is ‘I wish I had known.’ ”

Lahiff said 5 to 6 percent of students in her classes use DSP accommodations. Here is the process for requesting DSP accommodations.

Complete a five-step application process

Students new to DSP must complete a five-step process before receiving academic accommodations.

1. Submit an online application for DSP services. Students can find the link to the application, in addition to a complete list of disabilities that DSP accommodates, on the DSP website under the “New Students” tab.

2. Call the DSP receptionist at 510-642-0518 to arrange for an intake appointment with a disability specialist.

3. At least 48 hours before your scheduled appointment with a disability specialist, provide DSP with verification of your disability.

4. Meet with your disability specialist to discuss the accommodations or services you may require. Students may need to schedule a follow-up appointment if DSP has not received medical documentation verifying the severity of a disability 48 hours prior to their appointment. DSP provides specific information about required documentation on its website.

5. After you have been approved for accommodations and services by your disability specialist, request letters of accommodation online. Letters of accommodation go to faculty and outline necessary accommodations.

Connect with faculty

To receive accommodations, students must contact each of their professors at the start of every semester and submit letters of accommodation to make their needs known. DSP staff can help students negotiate with professors who may have issues with their accommodations.

Letters of accommodation do not specify what disability a student has – only the accommodations they require. Students must provide new medical documentation when requesting new accommodations.

Lahiff urged students to take advantage of accommodations and to not fear stigma for seeking the help that they are entitled to.

“The bottom line is this: that it is part of Berkeley’s commitment to diversity that these folks have no more obstacles than anybody else and that we do what we can to remove those obstacles,” Lahiff said.

Sam Levin covers student life. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @SamJLevin.