The Disabled Students' Program Today

The Disabled Students' Program employs nearly 40 staff members and serves approximately 2,700 students. Currently, DSP serves approximately 6% of the UC Berkeley student population.

DSP is under the umbrella of the Equity and Inclusion division, as disability is a part of the diversity fabric. While the primary focus and mission of DSP is to serve documented disabled students, DSP staff also work closely with faculty, as well as administrators and staff to build a more accessible learning environment. The DSP staff outreach benefits not only DSP students, but also other students who could benefit, but may not have self-identified need for accommodations such as wounded warriors, who may not even be aware of their disability rights.

Ed Roberts

In 1962, Ed Roberts wanted to attend UC Berkeley. Like most Cal students, he was bright and ambitious, but in one respect he was not a "stock model." He'd had polio when he was fourteen. Now he used a wheelchair by day and respirator by night. Meetings were held among Dean of Students Arleigh Williams, Director of Student Health Services Dr. Henry Bruyn, Ed's mother Zona Roberts, and Ed himself. This led to Ed's having a room, not in the residence halls, but in the on-campus health facility, Cowell Hospital.

John Hessler

Newspaper accounts of Roberts' admission at Cal caught the attention of a physical therapist at Contra Costa Hospital. She showed them to a twenty-two year old patient, John Hessler. John had broken his neck six years earlier in a diving accident and expected to live out his life in the hospital. Instead, he applied for academic admission at Cal and, in 1963, became the second student to move into Cowell.

Cowell Hospital

By the end of the 1960's, a dozen students lived in the third-floor wing of Cowell Hospital. They found and hired people to do personal care (to be known as "attendants"), discovered a largely unused law which entitled disabled individuals money to pay for their personal care (now known as "In-Home Support Services"), and bought motorized wheelchairs. Registered nurse Eleanor Smith, (and later Edna Brean), served as liaison, assistant, and resource for students. Part-time orderlies helped with meals and back-up personal care.

Off-Campus Apartments

By 1969, the first adventurous students moved from the hospital to apartments on the south side of the Berkeley campus. This was a revolutionary step away from the conventional idea that disabled individuals needed to be sheltered and protected by medical professionals.

Physically Disabled Students' Program

In 1970, the students received a grant of $80,000 from the Federal Department of Education. The Physically Disabled Students' Program was established in a office behind the eatery Top Dog at 2532 Durant Avenue. Its first Director was John Hessler. Hessler hired three counselors: Mike Fuss, Zona Roberts, and Chuck Grimes. In those days, everyone at the office was a "generalist." They did whatever was needed, inventing if necessary, as they went along. Mike was the Assistant Director, Chuck was largely in charge of wheelchair maintenance, and Zona worked on the essential services of housing and attendant care.

Residence Program

Also in 1975, Susan O'Hara became Coordinator of the Residence Program. Recognizing the needless stigma attached to students housed in a campus hospital, the University moved the Residence Program to the Unit II residence halls. It is now housed in the fully accessible Unit I residence halls, two blocks closer to campus.

For the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Residence Program in 1987, a survey was taken of 157 former Residence Program participants. It found the average salary of those employed to be $32,224. Career fields include law, architecture, psychotherapy, counseling, management, programming, systems analysis, market management, accounting, travel, education, real estate, writing, and drama.

The Disabled Students' Union

Like other groups in the 1960's, the students organized themselves to better deal with bureaucracies and to voice their concerns. The "Rolling Quads" was formed in 1969 (renamed the "Disabled Students' Union" in 1973). They proposed the formal establishment of services for the disabled students at Cal.

The Disabled Students' Program

"Physically" was dropped from the Physically Disabled Students' Program's name in 1982, in recognition of the services provided for students with learning disabilities. In 1988, Susan O'Hara became Director of the Disabled Students' Program, and Bill Blanchard succeeded her as Coordinator of the Residence Program. Susan retired in 1992 and Lynn Bailiff became the Disabled Students' Program's Director. Lynn Retired in 1997 and Ed Rogers became DSP's manager in 1998.