Mission of the Disabled Students' Program

The mission of the Disabled Students' Program (DSP) is to ensure that all students with disabilities have equal access to educational opportunities at UC Berkeley, so they can participate, freely and actively, in all facets of University life.

DSP serves students with disabilities of all categories, both visible and nonvisible. Students with temporary disabilities (for example, broken limbs) may also qualify for services for the period during which they are disabled.

A note about our usage of the words "disabled" and "disability": In law, University policies, and common parlance, terms like "disabled" and "disability" have a variety of meanings, many of which are contextual. The use of "disabled" and "disability" in this document and in the name "Disabled Students' Program" does not imply any determination related to civil rights or other legal definitions, and does not imply that students served by DSP have "disabilities" as defined by any particular law. Rather, DSP serves students who meet the following criteria:

  1. The students have documented physical, medical, and/or psychological conditions; and
  2. Professionals have verified that the students need individualized services (similar to those described below), the absence of which would cause severe disadvantages for the students.

For information on University policies regarding students with disabilities, and federal and state laws affecting people with disabilities, contact UC Berkeley's ADA/504 Compliance Officer"The Berkeley Campus Policy for Accommodating the Academic Needs of Students with Disabilities" can be read here on the Accommodation Policy web page. "The University of California Policies Applying to Campus Activities, Organizations, and Students" and Section 140 of these policies, "Guidelines Applying to Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability" can be read at UCOP PACAOS.

Responsibilities of the Disabled Students' Program

When students request services from the Disabled Students' Program, DSP Specialists have the responsibility for determining whether the students have disabilities impeding educational access. In making this determination, Specialists conduct an Intake that is consistent with established University of California system practices. The Intake process includes interviews with the student, as well as a review of documentation provided by physicians and other clinicians (for example, clinical psychologists, audiologists, and optometrists). DSP is FERPA compliant, and does not provide medical diagnosis. 

When students are determined to have disabilities impeding educational access, DSP Specialists plan a program of services for them. Some students require program modifications: for example, a reduced course load. Others may require auxiliary services: for example, notetakers or laboratory assistants. Many students require academic adjustments, or modifications in instructional methods: for example, Brailled textbooks and class handouts, extended time for examinations, or substitution of an essay for an oral presentation. In combination, program modifications, auxiliary services, and academic adjustments are often referred to as "academic accommodations" in University and common parlance.

Accommodations are not intended to give students with disabilities an unfair advantage, but to remove barriers that prevent students with disabilities from learning and from demonstrating what they have learned. DSP requests only those accommodations for which a student has a disability-related academic need. Accommodations vary from student to student; people with different disabilities may have different academic problems, and sometimes two people with the same disability will be impacted in diverse ways.

Responsibilities of the Instructor

When students give you Letters of Accommodation from DSP, you are responsible for providing the accommodations listed; but you are not required to compromise the academic quality of your course by giving passing grades to students who have failed to demonstrate the required level of understanding or performance competency. Once you have provided accommodations, you should grade the work of disabled students as you would grade the work of any others. When students have received accommodations, there is no need to "give them a break" by being unduly lenient. To grade students more harshly because they have had the "advantage" of extra exam time or other instructional modifications would nullify the effect of the accommodations.

Students have a right to privacy in disability matters, and their confidentiality must be maintained. You should file their Letters of Accommodation in a safe place, and you should refrain from discussing their disabilities and necessary accommodations in the hearing of fellow students or others who have no educational "need to know."

If you receive a Letter of Accommodation and have difficulty providing the accommodations listed, or if you disagree with the accommodations, please contact the Specialist who signed the letter. If you and DSP reach an impasse in your discussion about an accommodation, you should contact the campus ADA/504 Compliance Officer within five University working days of being notified about the accommodation. The ADA/504 Compliance Officer may set aside the accommodation or may decline to do so. In the latter case, the ADA/504 Compliance Officer may refer you to the Academic Accommodations Policy Board, which will review the matter and advise the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost, whose decision will be final.

Responsibilities of the Student

Students have the responsibility for requesting DSP services and providing documentation of conditions that may warrant academic accommodations. Once DSP has definitely determined that students have a disability-related need for academic accommodations, the students are provided the ability to request Letters of Accommodation (LOA's), addressed to their instructors, which describe the needed accommodations.

Occasionally a student may request accommodations without presenting you with a Letter of Accommodation from DSP. To protect yourself, the student, and the University, you should insist that the student contact DSP to request an appropriate Letter of Accommodation addressed to you.

Students eligible for DSP services normally receive Letters of Accommodation no more than one week after requesting them. DSP Specialists strongly emphasize that students should give you their Letters of Accommodation immediately after receiving them, thus permitting you sufficient time to make necessary arrangements. If you feel that you do not have sufficient time, please contact DSP as soon as possible.

Sometimes it is mid-semester or later before students are diagnosed with disabilities and/or authorized for DSP services. In this event, of course, students cannot provide you with Letters of Accommodation early in the semester, even though you have invited them to do so in your syllabus. If you have questions related to when a student was authorized for accommodations, contact DSP.


"The Berkeley Campus Policy for Accommodating the Academic Needs of Students with Disabilities" can be read here on the Accommodation Policy web page. "The University of California Policies Applying to Campus Activities, Organizations, and Students"(link is external) and Section 140 of these policies, "Guidelines Applying to Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability"(link is external) can be read at UCOP PACAOS.