Who Participates in DSP?
DSP currently serves more than 1,600 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled at UC Berkeley. While many people assume that students with disabilities are mostly visibly physically disabled, at present the majority of students receiving our services have invisible disabilities. These students have learning or psychological disabilities and often do not traditionally identify as people with disabilities at all (although some do). Taken together, the students who work with and comprise DSP represent a sizable minority group on the Berkeley campus, and one as diverse as the campus itself. We consider disabled students to be an integral part of the diversity fabric of the school, and work to support those students in finding an academic home at UC Berkeley.
How We Support Students
Students participating in DSP have the same responsibilities as any other UC Berkeley student. In general terms, that means getting to class regularly, meeting with faculty and peers to study and learn, and finally demonstrating that completed learning come exam time. DSP helps students with disabilities navigate that system by establishing a set of academic accommodations based on each students’ individual disability. More information about disability documentation and the accommodation process can be found under in our New Student section, under Documentation.
Many of our students make use of Auxiliary Services such as note taking support, alternative media, and specialized exam conditions to complete their coursework. Some students rely on specific disability-related considerations for absences and classroom environments, or a combination of accommodations, depending on the severity of their disabilities. DSP staff, in authorizing accommodations for students, will provide them with an accommodation letter (LOA) that protects their access to the classroom by specifying the services and supports they require. Information about the process for establishing services through DSP is available at the link for New Students.
Interacting with Faculty (DSP Confidentiality)
Unlike the accommodations process for secondary education (high schools) accommodations in postsecondary education institutions are a shared responsibility between students receiving disability accommodations and faculty administering those accommodations. For students new to postsecondary education, this means that you are responsible for making your accommodation needs known to your professors.
Each semester you MUST submit an accommodations letter (LOA) to the faculty members for the classes in which you are currently enrolled, and for the classes that you believe you will require accommodations. The letter includes all DSP authorized accommodations for your classes. You are then responsible for contacting each faculty member who receives your LOA, to make sure they understand what the letter contains.
If, for whatever reason, your faculty takes issue with the details of your accommodations, DSP staff can assist you in explaining your accommodation requirements to faculty. However, DSP staff will only intervene with faculty if you make a specific request for such support, and only if your first attempts to explain your accommodations to the faculty have been unsatisfactory.
Upon request, DSP staff can also assist you in problem solving how to best approach faculty. Unlike in high school, faculty in postsecondary educational institutions have the right to object to any potential accommodations if those accommodations fundamentally alter the essential nature of their course.
In brief, DSP authorizes accommodations based on documentation receipt/interpretation, and the interactive process with the students, but faculty have the right to protect the academic integrity of their curriculum. Hence, the process of determining appropriate accommodations for courses may vary depending on the essential nature of the curriculum.
It cannot be emphasized enough that it is the responsibility of the student to sit down and meet with faculty at the beginning of each semester, prior to any potential misunderstandings, to review the LOA conditions, and faculty curriculum requirements. Faculty are not responsible for providing retroactive accommodations. Faculty responsibility for complying with accommodation provisions begins upon receipt of the LOA. In some cases such as exam accommodations, at least two weeks prior notice may be required before appropriate accommodations can be arranged.