DSP Complaint Resolution Process

Disabled Students’ Program Complaint Resolution Process

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and UC Non-Discrimination Policy require a process for the resolution of complaints related to disability discrimination or the failure to reasonably accommodate disability-related academic needs.  

The following process may be used by students with disabilities to resolve complaints about these matters:   Denial of academic accommodations, decisions regarding eligibility for academic accommodations, determinations of specific appropriate academic accommodations, provision of accommodations and auxiliary services, provision of communication services, and administrative decisions of the Disabled Students' Program (DSP).

Students may address concerns about academic accommodation decisions affecting them in two ways. The first is to pursue an informal resolution (I) . The second is to pursue a formal complaint (explained further below). While we encourage students to begin with informal resolution, a student may choose to start with a formal complaint. Formal complaints involving instructors will be managed by DSP as described below (II).  Formal complaints regarding DSP decisions or implementation of services may be appealed as described below (III). 

I. Informal resolution:

In general, when a student is dissatisfied with any academic accommodations, the fastest process for resolving the issue is to directly contact the student’s DSP Specialist.

A student may pursue informal resolution of a complaint by scheduling a meeting with the DSP Director to discuss the complaint and explore possible avenues of resolution. If a satisfactory solution cannot be reached, the student may initiate formal resolution by putting the student’s complaint in writing.

II. Formal Process when an instructor denies an accommodation:

If a student has received an accommodation letter from DSP, and an instructor indicates to the student that a specific accommodation described in the letter is academically inappropriate with the regard to that instructor’s course, the student seeking the accommodation should inform the student’s DSP Specialist of the instructor’s position and seek resolution through the DSP Specialist.  Students are encouraged not to discuss any disagreement with the instructor regarding accommodations directly with the instructor.  If the instructor initiates such a conversation, the student is encouraged to refer the instructor to the student’s DSP Specialist.  Generally, complaints that an instructor has not observed the provisions of an accommodation letter cannot be resolved until after the student has advised the student’s DSP Specialist of the situation, as described above.

Initial accommodation letters issued by DSP are typically general and are not tailored to any specific course.  Instructors decide whether or not accommodations proposed by DSP are academically appropriate for an instructor’s specific course.  When an instructor informs DSP that an accommodation proposed by DSP is not appropriate for a specific course, the instructor and DSP confer and agree regarding an alternate accommodation (or agree that no accommodation is appropriate), and that agreement is reflected in a new accommodation letter for that course issued by DSP to the student (or by affirming to the student that the current letter will be observed by the instructor).  

When DSP and an instructor disagree regarding the appropriateness of an accommodation for a particular course, the matter is referred by DSP to the Vice Provost for Faculty Welfare, who decides what accommodation is appropriate, and directs DSP to either issue a new accommodation letter or inform the student that the existing accommodation letter will be observed by the instructor.  DSP, not the student, is responsible for managing disagreements between DSP and an instructor.  The student may provide DSP with information that the student wishes the Vice Provost to consider in making the Vice Provost’s decision.

When the complaint concerns the refusal of an instructor to follow DSP’s recommendations as set forth in an accommodation letter issued by DSP after DSP has considered the concerns of the instructor regarding such accommodation, the final decision will be made by the Vice Provost for Faculty Welfare.

A formal complaint must be made in writing, must state unambiguously that it is a “formal complaint,” and must be sent to the attention of the Director of DSP (knielson@berkeley.edu).

III. Formal Process for appealing DSP decisions:

A formal complaint regarding a decision made by DSP or provision of (or denial of) an academic disability accommodation or service must be made in writing, must state unambiguously that it is a “formal complaint,” and must be sent to the attention of the Director of DSP (knielson@berkeley.edu).

The formal complaint must describe the specific accommodation or service issue that is the subject of the complaint, the date that the issue arose, the facts on which the complaint is based, and the resolution requested. Formal complaints must be submitted within thirty days from the time the student knew or could reasonably be expected to have known of the DSP staff or supervisor action that is the subject of the complaint.  The campus may treat untimely complaints as having been waived by the student based upon failure to assert the complaint in a timely.

Generally, complaints that an instructor has not observed the provisions of an accommodation letter cannot be resolved until after the student has advised the student’s DSP Specialist of the situation, in the manner described above.

DSP will seek to complete its review and notify the student of the outcome of the complaint within ten days of the date it was received. Complex complaints may not be resolved within ten days.  Complaints made during summer and inter-semester recesses are not included within these time frames may not be resolved within ten days. All time frames referred to in this procedure refer to calendar days.

Upon receipt of a written complaint, the DSP Director may assign an individual to evaluate the complaint and make a recommendation to the appropriate decision maker regarding the outcome of the complaint. At a minimum, the evaluation should include an attempt to interview the complainant, a review of any relevant written materials submitted by the complainant, and an effort to obtain information from relevant individuals (i.e. interviews, written statements or documents). The DSP Director or that person’s designate shall notify the student in writing of the decision regarding of the complaint.

The decision regarding formal complaints shall be made by the DSP Director, with the following exceptions.  When the complaint concerns a decision issued specifically by the DSP Director, the decision shall be made by the Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion or the designee of that Vice Chancellor (which designee shall not be DSP Director).  

Decisions regarding all formal complaints are final and are not subject to appeal or review through any other campus grievance procedure or dispute resolution process.

Examples of formal complaints might include the following allegations of the following matters:

Procedural error or violation of policy by DSP staff or supervisor. (III)

Judgments improperly made by DSP based upon non-relevant criteria including, but not limited to, discrimination or harassment on the basis of sex, race, national origin, color, age, religion, sexual orientation, or disability. (III)

Specific mitigating circumstances beyond the student's control not properly taken into account in a decision affecting the student's services. (II&III)

Ongoing, repeated failure by DSP to provide an auxiliary aid or alternative media for which DSP has determined the student is eligible. (III)

Refusal of an instructor to observe recommendations in an accommodation letter issued by DSP (after the accommodation letter has been issued or affirmed by a DSP Specialist following notice of to the DSP Specialist of the instructor’s disagreement with a proposed accommodation). (II)

COMPLAINT REGARDING NON-ACADEMIC DISABILITY ACCOMMODATION

Information regarding how a student may obtain disability accommodation with regard to campus housing or campus dining programs can be found here:

http://www.housing.berkeley.edu/students-disabilities

Information regarding how a student may obtain disability accommodation a disability with regard to student employment can be found here:

http://hr.berkeley.edu/resolving-problems/where-go

Students may consult and obtain assistance with regard to the informal resolution of concerns regarding non-academic disability accommodation by contacting the Disability Compliance Office:

https://disabilitycompliance.berkeley.edu/