UC Berkeley’s Disability Awareness Month aims to educate, foster resilience

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Throughout November, UC Berkeley’s Disabled Students’ Program, or DSP, is spearheading Disability Awareness Month to raise campus and community awareness about disabilities and resiliency among disabled students.

Disability Awareness Month is designed to generate a more inclusive campus climate for more than 3,100 students at UC Berkeley with both apparent and nonapparent disabilities, according to DSP executive director Karen Nielson. Disability Awareness Month serves to connect disabled students to resources, educate both DSP members and the campus community on the rights of disabled students and break down the stigma that comes with being a student with disabilities.

“At DSP we find it incredibly important to educate the campus community,” said DSP disability specialist Stephanie Flores in an email. “We know the stigma is still very real at Cal, our community and society in general, but we make it a priority to not only educate our students on their rights, but also educate the campus community as a whole.”

DSP will be tabling with games and therapy dogs between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., and Berkeley Disabled Students will be hosting a presentation on how to navigate academic accommodations and the troubles students may face from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesday. These are two distinguished events, according to Flores.

Events held this month also include learning and memory skill-building workshops, self-love discussion groups and career readiness networking events. Nielson added that DSP will also hold an art showcase Nov. 21.

“(Disability Awareness Month) is an important time for the entire campus community to get together, enjoy art, mingle, and celebrate our students on campus that identify with having a disability,” Flores said in the email. “We celebrate our students everyday, but for this month’s events we really want the entire campus community to celebrate our students with us!”

DSP is working to expand its services and programs that currently include support for students on the autism spectrum, career counseling for DSP students and a DSP learning specialist, according to Nielson. DSP is also working to expand resources for the 50% of DSP students who have mental health disabilities.

DSP has a cooperative relationship with student groups advocating for disability rights and are working with them to advocate for a campus disability cultural center, according to Nielson. Nielson added that many DSP students have expressed the desire to connect with other students who understand the challenges that come with being a student with disabilities and that these students need a “safe place that is geared to meet their needs for community and services.”

UC Berkeley disability access and compliance manager Derek Coates explained that while students with disabilities may face stigma, they should not feel less than their peers who do not have disabilities.

“Students with disabilities were not admitted to U.C. Berkeley because they have a disability,” Coates said in an email. “They were admitted because they successfully competed against their peers and were determined qualified to attend and have an opportunity to achieve academic success.”

Contact Skylar Schoemig at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sschoemig_dc.