Disabled Students’ Program acquires emergency funding to onboard staff

photo of the disabled students' program building
Erica Cardozo /Staff
Emergency funding for the Disabled Students' Program will allow the hiring of four staff members. ASUC and DSP officials hope to reduce long wait times for appointments caused by an increase in the number of DSP students.

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The Disabled Students Program, or DSP, acquired emergency funding that will allow four staff members to begin work in spring 2022.

ASUC Academic Affairs Vice President James Weichert and ASUC Senator Amanda Hill led the effort to expand the program’s funding.

According to DSP Director Karen Nielson, the funding will come from campus’s division of undergraduate education, the ASUC, Disability Access and Compliance, Campus Counsel and many faculty. Nielson added the DSP has grown by more than 500 students every year, and the return to campus has further strained the department. The additional staff will allow for improved quality of service and shorter wait times for students, Nielson added.

“The funding will allow DSP to hire four new staff including: a new Disability Specialist, a new Communications assistant, (media and Real time captioning) a new Proctoring assistant, and a new Supervisor for Classroom Access Services,” Nielson said in an email.

Both Weichert and Hill consider the long wait times plaguing the department unacceptable for students and staffers alike and claim that the emergency grant will reduce pressures on staff and alleviate the monthlong backlog in appointment requests.

Weichert and Hill urged the chancellor to provide aid to the program through a series of actions and communications.

“It was a campaign of putting pressure on the right places, that really went on for weeks and weeks, especially at the beginning of the semester,” Weichert said. “We want to make sure every student on this campus is able to succeed.”

Weichert added that the pandemic highlighted the needs of students, including students who struggle with online learning. He said without access to DSP accommodations, it is very difficult for students with disabilities to succeed.

Hill emphasized the significance of DSP for students on campus and the need for extra resources.

“As somebody with ADHD and autism, I can say that these things matter,” Hill said. “It’s really hard when you can’t get in contact with people or even fill out an application. Waiting a month to get an intake appointment is unacceptable. By the time you get that appointment, you might already be failing your classes.”

Weichert hopes the changes will be permanent. Three of the incoming staff are permanent and the fourth has signed a two-year contract, according to Nielson.

The fight isn’t over though, according to Hill.

“People of color, especially females of color with autism, have not been treated properly and taken care of,” Hill said. “This isn’t the end. There are more issues.”

Contact Jack Hughes at [email protected].