UC Berkeley ranked as one of most accessible campuses for disabled students

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FEBRUARY 24, 2012

A recently published book states that UC Berkeley is one of five universities that offer enough services to make on-campus residency realistic for students with serious physical disabilities.

The book, entitled “College Success for Students with Physical Disabilities,” was published Feb. 1. While all colleges and universities must meet the requirements dictated by the Americans with Disabilities Act, the book’s author, Chris Wise Tiedemann, identified UC Berkeley, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, University of Houston, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Wright State University as going beyond the government’s baseline requisites regarding the physical accessibility of campuses.

The availability of transportation services, extracurricular programs and academic support distinguished these schools as having the most supportive environments for students with disabilities, said Lacy Compton, editor and promotions coordinator for Prufrock Press, which published the book.

In addition to the usual services provided by universities, UC Berkeley offers three add-on programs — focused on residency, workplace placement and academic support — that set it apart from other schools, said Paul Hippolitus, director of the campus Disabled Students’ Program. According to Hippolitus, these services are available to the 1,127 students currently enrolled.

Hippolitus said 32 students with significant mobility impairments also participate in the Disabled Students’ Residence Program — a two-semester program that houses participants in fully accessible dorm rooms, provides attendant care and teaches independent living skills.

The campus also offers a number of support programs and counseling services, including peer groups, certified psychological counselors and the Disabled Students Union.

According to Hippolitus, the campus has a long-standing tradition of serving students with disabilities, dating back to Ed Roberts, a quadriplegic who attended and taught at UC Berkeley in the 1960s. While the residency program was implemented in Roberts’ time, the employment and tutoring programs were born of his legacy, Hippolitus said.

“People with disabilities know about Berkeley before they come to Berkeley,” said Alex Ghenis, former president of the union. “The history going way back to the ’60s resonates and attracts a lot of people who care about disabilities and disability rights.”

Despite this, Hippolitus said social integration is still the largest challenge facing disabled students.

“Because they are afraid to say the wrong thing, some nondisabled students tend not to say anything at all to students with disabilities,” Hippolitus said. “This creates a chasm in social interaction. We have to learn that students with disabilities are first and foremost students.”

Contact Shannon Najmabadi at 


FEBRUARY 26, 2012

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