FCDR supports open letter protesting UCB decision

The FCDR as an organization and its officers signed onto the open letter recently published in Inside Higher Education:

ACCESS DENIED: A group of scholars object to a decision by the University of California, Berkeley, to remove many video and audio lectures from public view as a result of a Justice Department accessibility order.


FCDR supports disability protest on Cal campus

The Faculty Coalition for Disability Rights supports the disability protest on March 20th.

Located in front of California Hall from 11a – 2pm, the protest is being organized by the Berkeley Disabled Students.

Are you a U.C. Berkeley student, faculty, or staff member with a disability who has experienced discrimination on campus? Disabled students and staff are fed up with second-class policies and procedures toward our community. FIGHT BACK in solidarity with disabled people as we demand accountability and change from campus administration! PLEASE NOTE: You do not have to be a disabled community member or have to disclose your disability to participate. Feel free to bring your own signs. For a copy of our demand letter to UCB administration, please email berkeleydisabledstudents@gmail.com or check back on this Facebook Page later for a posting of the demand letter. Join us in solidarity. #NothingAboutUsWithoutUs #UCBerkeleyDisabledStudentsFightBackAgainstDiscrimination

Number of disabled faculty and staff at UC Berkeley

Last year, Prof Nakamura filed a public records access request noting that under Section 503  of the Rehabilitation Act, all federal contractors must collect data on the number of individuals with disabilities (IWDs) in their workforce. This would include UC Berkeley.

The response dated April 27, 2016 from the UC Berkeley Public Records Office was that UC Berkeley had:

  • 24 “regular” faculty with disabilities
  • 11 “other” faculty
  • 70 “graduate student titles”
  • 31 “other academic”
  • 210 staff (54 rep and 156 non-rep) *1
FN: We assume rep means union representation.

UC Berkeley advertises that they have 1522 full-time faculty (caveat: this may not be the same as “regular” faculty), which would put the percentage of IWDs in the faculty ranks at 24/1522 or in terms of percentage, 1.5%.

Now it’s clear that these numbers are inaccurate — that they are much too low. We know just through personal connections that there are more than 24 or 35 disabled faculty.  All faculty were asked two years to report their status and new faculty are asked when they are onboarded in the HR database.

Why people are underreporting their disability status then becomes a key question.


Fall 2016 FCDR Meeting – Thursday Dec 8, 10a

Dear FCDR Members:

I am happy to invite you to our Fall 2016 meeting of the Faculty Coalition for Disability Rights at UC Berkeley.

When: Thursday December 8, 2016, 10:00-noon. Refreshments provided.
Where: The Gifford Room, 221 Kroeber Hall.
Access: Wheelchair accessible. CART or ASL interpretation can be provided on request. Please do not wear scented products. Let us know if you have other access needs.

This will be an occasion to meet and welcome Karen Nakamura who is the new Robert and Colleen Haas Distinguished Chair in Disability Studies, (part of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society), Professor of Anthropology, and Secretary for the FCDR. Karen has been on medical leave this semester, following a car accident this summer, but she has already taken a leadership role in our work to make UCB a more inclusive place for faculty, students and staff with disabilities.

Below, I will summarize some of the issues FCDR members have been working on this semester, and we will be glad to provide more information when we meet. But we’d mainly like to open up a conversation about increasing accessibility for faculty with disabilities on campus and discuss such issues as: disclosure, negotiating accommodations, recruitment, promotion and retention.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

We look forward to being together on December 8. Please bring any colleagues who might also be interested in joining the FCDR.
All best,

Georgina Kleege, President FCDR
Katherine Sherwood, Vice President FCDR
Karen Nakamura, Secretary, FCDR
Charlotte Smith, Treasurer, FCDR

Summary of FCDR Activities Fall 2016
The DOJ Letter

Early this semester, the Department of Justice cited UCB for the inaccessibility of its free online courses:


FCDR members felt that Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education, Catherine Koshland’s response to the DOJ letter scapegoated people with disabilities, and implied that the “public” that our public university serves does not include people with disabilities. Karen Nakamura and others composed an open letter expressing our distress about the wording of the letter and offering to work with the administration to find solutions to the problem. Karen and I met with VC Koshland, VCEI Na’ilah Nasir, and others to suggest ways to encourage faculty and others who design online course materials to build in access features from the outset, rather than adding them on later as an after-thought. This kind of planning would not only be more cost-effective, it would improve access to the course materials for all students.

There has been no follow-up to this meeting

The Disability Audit

A number of FCDR members met with Chad Edwards, Principal Auditor, Audit and Advisory Services who is conducting an audit of disability issues on campus. We shared our experiences with inaccessibility and our suggestions for improvement, and were impressed by his thorough survey of services and programs that already exist on campus and his ideas for the future. He predicted that he will finish his report by the end of this calendar year. When I receive a copy, I will share his findings with the FCDR membership.

The DSP Advisory Committee

Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion, Na’ilah This was in response to concerns raised by disabled students and the FCDR last year. Karen Nakamura agreed to chair this committee, and I am the other faculty representative. Arlene Mayerson, who is faculty at the law school, is representing the local disability advocacy and activism community. There are representatives from the two disabled student groups (the Disabled Students Union and Berkeley Disabled Students) and there is a representative each from the graduate student association and the ASUC.

As the committee was being formed, we learned of the closure of a long-standing program administered by the DSP:


Although the problems that led to this closure began during the tenure of the previous DSP director, our committee has been trying to assess if the new services being offered are adequately replacing the old program. Complicating matters for us, VCEI Nasir has yet to delineate a charge for our committee. I hope that by the end of the semester I will be able to report some clarification.

Access for Disabled Visiting Scholars

We advocated for a visiting scholar who was seeking disability accommodations while at Berkeley on a fellowship. Since the person was not a student, the DSP at first refused to offer the requested services, saying that it was the responsibility of the sponsoring department. But the sponsoring department did not have funds for this. Eventually the DSP agreed to provide the requested services, but it was unfortunate to witness the time and energy the visiting scholar had to devote to the process.

Respectfully Submitted,

Georgina Kleege, President FCDR

UC Berkeley Chancellor’s response to Parent Coalition Letter

UC Berkeley Chancellor Dirks and Vice-Chancellor Nasir wrote a response to the Parent Coalition letter regarding the DSRP closure.




Text of letter as extracted from PDF enclosed below.


Nicholas B. Dirks


P1!01’llSSOR 01′ I I!S’I’Ol!Y



Dear UC Berkeley Parent Coalition for Student Disability Rights:

200 Cali fornia I I all :ft15oo

13crkclcy, CA 94720 1500

510 642-7464

510 643-5499 FAX

chanccllor@bc rkclcy.cdu

October 18, 2016

Thank you for sharing your concerns about the announcement of the discontinuation of the WAIV

program. Unfortunately, media reports on the subject have contained incomplete and, in some cases,

incorrect information about the scope of disability services that the campus has offered in the past and

will continue to offer in the future. We regret the confusion and concerns generated by recent coverage

and write now to provide you with comprehensive, factual information.

Here is a summary of the situation:

The Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) contract, signed in Fall 2015, specified the types of services and

the duration of the services that were to be provided to clients, including our students who were served

by the program. The Personal Vocational Social Adjustment (PVSA) services prescribed by the

DOR/Workability IV- or WAIV – contract were limited to providing short-term skills training, including

workplace interactions, information on how to request job accommodations, and self-advocacy skills.

DOR counselors had to provide written authorization for each training, and the trainings were limited to

one to four months. This program was serving only about 60 disabled students- about three percent of

the total disabled student population.

This work had been funded through a federal matching grant. The Campus determined that the recent

changes in federal regulations and the limitations of the grant were no longer in alignment with the

growth of our campus’ disability population and the range of disability needs. However, the campus fully

recognizes the value of these services, and is therefore developing a more robust program that is capable

of delivering these and many other services for an increased number of students with disabilities.

Specifically, the new Disabled Student Program (DSP) Director and the Vice Chancellor for Equity and

Inclusion are re-envisioning the DSP service model to meet students’ needs for more dynamic and

efficient services. This new service model includes:

• The assignment of a DSP specialist, who has experience and training in working with students on

the autism spectrum and others who need support, to immediately begin providing support and

services to those 60 students who were PVSA clients. This specialist will continue the weekly

social skills group and offer workshops on self-advocacy, self-care, professional etiquette and

attire, and more;

• Hiring a new career services professional who is also a disability specialist. This new professional

will work in Career Services office and will provide related employment skills training to Disabled

Students Program (DSP) students, including those who were served under WAIV. We intend to

have this position filled by January 2017;

• Working with the Center for Independent Living to provide services for DSP students on campus

including independent living skills and travel training;

• Providing assistive technology consults to students who would like to use this service as a part of

their disability management. DSP also has a new grant to conduct outreach to newly admitted

students to help them connect sooner with DSP services and staff;

• Engaging a national consultant from College Autism Spectrum to provide training to staff, evaluate

our current services and offer guidance in the creation and implementation of other services that

might be needed.

Next fall, as a part of the New Student Orientation, DSP will offer an orientation specifically geared to help

students with disabilities transition into the Cal environment. The orientation will include connecting

students to community and government resources to help them successfully transition to university life

and highlight instruction on self-advocacy and working with professors.

We are proud that the Disability Rights Movement was born and cultivated here in the city of Berkeley

and on the Cal Campus. We are committed to continuing our legacy of recognizing disability as an

important dimension of diversity, empowering our students with disabilities, and serving them in greater

and more effective ways.

We believe strongly that your demands will be represented in the new model of planned services.

Karen Nielson, the new DSP Director, is available to talk about these services and she welcomes your

feedback and partnership as we move forward to break new ground for persons with disabilities at


Na’ilah asir

Vice Chancellor for Equity & Inclusion

Cc: Carol Christ, Interim Executive Vice Chancellor & Provost

Nils Gilman, Associate Chancellor and Chief of Staff to the Chancellor

Khira Griscavage, Associate Chancellor and Campus Chief Ethics, Risk & Compliance Officer

Mia Settles-Tidwell, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Equity & Inclusion

Fabrizio Meijia, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Equity & Success

Karen Nakumura, Robert & Colleen Haas Distinguished Chair of Disability Studies & Professor of


Karen Nielson, Director of Disabled Students Program

Derek Coates, Disability Compliance Officer

FCDR endorses UCB parent coalition letter regarding DSRP closure

The FCDR officers have voted to endorse the letter from the UCB Parent Coalition for Student Disability Rights regarding the closure of the DSRP and WAIV programs. We enclose parent coalition letter and the original letter from DSP Director Nielson announcing the change below. They are also available on the website for the UCB parent coalition.



—- Text of PCDR letter follows —-

The UC Berkeley Parent Coalition for Student Disability Rights
September 30th, 2016
Dear Chancellor Dirks,

On August 30th, Karen Nielson, Director of the Disability Students’ Program (DSP), issued a brief, short notice, and vague email inviting some of the students that are in the Disabled Students’ Readiness Program (DSRP)/Workability IV (WAIV) program to a meeting with her and the Vice Chancellor Nasir, Equity and Inclusion. Many of the students who actually received the invitation did not understand the purpose of the meeting so early in the school year; therefore, it was poorly attended.

The purpose of this little impromptu meeting was to inform students with disabilities that the WAIV program, which they had been counting on to survive and succeed at Cal, had been unceremoniously cut. Hearing that their lifeline was now severed, many openly wept.

Those who missed the meeting would hear of their promised services being ended via an email from Karen Nielson, in her first act as UC Berkeley’s new Director of DSP. In this email, Ms. Neilson asserts that 4 weeks earlier the University was given new guidelines with “drastic financial changes” from the Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) who pays for the program from a grant given by the government. She goes on to claim that the University was being asked to “fully fund the WAIV program services.”

A copy of this email is provided herein for your convenience.

In actuality, there were no “drastic financial changes” – instead, the only change was that the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) guidelines that required the University to provide direct services instead of indirect ones to students. The WAIV program is funded by federal WIOA dollars totaling $629,000 – of that money, $314,000 goes to the Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) and $314,000 goes to the University for the program.

To say that the campus was being required to “fully fund the WAIV program services” is completely false.
Ms. Neilson goes on to assert that WAIV is “a very restrictive workforce development program” that “funds four full time staff and a percentage of the salaries of two DSP administrators along with other department staff.”
This indeed is a lot of staff being funded by one government grant.
The description on the University’s website of the WAIV program, still online as of 9/29/16, paints a vision of services that is anything but “restrictive.”

Page |2

DSRP helps eligible disabled students make the transition from home, to school, and on to employment. It is designed to help you get through Cal, and onto a productive and fulfilling career.

While employment skills and training are at the core of the WAIV program, these skills in many ways parallel those needed to be successful in college at UC Berkeley.

“Career training” at UC Berkeley starts with providing the services and supports to enable a student with a disability to succeed at school in their major.

Isn’t Berkeley, the nation’s number one public University, home of the disabilities rights movement, interested in enabling and empowering its students, including those with disabilities, so that they are prepared to join and, in fact become leaders in the workforce?

According to Ms. Neilson, the program “served 60 students with four full time staff during the 2015-16 school year.”

No data was given for the current school year, even though it had indeed started; the WAIV program was in full swing with social skills training launched, and Kevin, Linda, Sandy, and Esther attending to students many varied needs.

As the rates of students with disabilities needing the DSRP/WAIV services is on the rise, it’s reasonable to assume that upwards of 80 students with disabilities were counting on this help to succeed at Cal. Students with disabilities like autism spectrum disorders, mobility impairments, wheel chair users, chronic medical conditions, mental health issues, blind and visually impairments – were relying on these services to manage and thrive at this very large, public university where a typical Freshman class can have between 600 to 800 students in it.
The gist of the University’s message to those disabled students at that meeting and to the public at large is: “UC Berkeley would have to commit more than $250,000 of new funds to this program” and we’re really sorry students with disabilities, but you’re just not worth that kind of money nor are you a priority.

As if that message wasn’t insulting and damaging enough, to add insult to injury is knowing that UC Berkeley wasn’t being asked to commit any extra or new funds to the program. It was being asked to use the government grant and the same, agreed upon commitment as in the past towards providing direct services – instead of, say, using the money to fund other programs, other staff not working with the students and for those not part of the WAIV program.

The UC Berkeley Parent Coalition for Student Disability Rights would like to know:
• Why the students were told that the DOR was making UC Berkeley totally fund the program, forcing the University to come up with over $250,000 when this is blatantly not the case?
• How the University could promise and mislead students by proclaiming it offered a vast array of services – both verbally and in print and online media — in the WAIV program to entice students with disabilities to enroll, only to wipe those services out a couple of weeks into the school year?

Page |3
• Why UC Berkeley is the only University to cancel the entire WAIV program, when all of the other California Universities, both state and UC’s are able to keep their programs running and service their students with disabilities?
• Why the WAIV program was used to pay 6+ DSP staff (we would like to know how many “others” Ms. Neilson is referring to in her accounting of where the WAIV money went)?
• Why the WAIV program couldn’t be kept alive with even one full time staffer – preferably Kevin Shields as he had the most experience successfully working with the students and staff?
• Why the TRIO program is being touted by the University as a replacement for WAIV – when none of the services or programs provided by WAIV are being offered through TRIO or any other program at UC Berkeley? And some of the students who have been referred to TRIO (which only has room for 250 students who need to meet certain criteria) have been denied services that had been previously given by both WAIV and TRIO in the past?
Additionally, the UC Berkeley Parent Coalition for Student Disability Rights demands the following promised services, accommodations and resources that were provided over the years under WAIV/DSRP be reinstated immediately:
• The DSRP room, a safe haven in building one of the dorms – an accommodation provided by the University for over 40 years. While this office used to be opened 24/7, it had this past year at least been opened every day during the week until 4pm.
• At least one, preferably two full time staff. We request that Kevin Shields keep his position as he has earned his trust servicing the needs of the disabled community at UC Berkeley for a number of years and understands both the needs of the students and the inner workings of the University to best assist those in the program.
• Advocacy Skills training
• Study Skills Group formation training
• Assistance and training in learning to work with lab partners and teams
• Scheduling and managing school workload strategies
• Mentorship
• Tutoring
• Mobility and Travel Training for public transportation
• Anxiety Management and Coping Skills
• Preparation and Advice on getting and keeping internships
• Part-time job placement on campus
• Accredited Courses in disability awareness
• Lessons in how to disclose your disability to faculty, peers and future employers
• Grooming skills, hygiene and self- care required for success
• Outings to promote community involvement and peer relationship development
• Classes in telephone, email and texting skills and etiquette
• Career planning, goal setting and readjustment of goals if necessary
• Lessons in money management, personal budgeting, and planning skills

Page |4
All students have academically and personally worked hard and earned their right to be a student at UC Berkeley and to be valued the same. In many cases, students who have disabilities that entitled them to be in the WAIV program have had to work even harder than their able bodied peers.

Instead of being known for being the defenders against social injustice and protectors of diversity, including neurodiversity, UC Berkeley is quickly gaining a reputation as intolerant, uncaring and elitist, exemplified not only by the cancelling of the WAIV program, but by the recent findings that the University was found to be out of compliance with the ADA by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The UC Berkeley Parent Coalition for Student Disability Rights asks that the University stop its downhill slide and reinstate the WAIV program, and to keep Kevin Shields at the helm of it.

We also ask that all of the DSRP Services that have been silently swept away over the years be reinstated; and that the message sent to the students and the public is not be one that “this program only services 60 people with disabilities so therefore it is not worth our time, our money or our efforts.”

Send the message that disabled students matter at this school and that Universal Design benefits everyone.


The UC Berkeley Parent Coalition for Student Disability Rights

Cc: Na’ilah Suad Nasir, Vice Chancellor of Equity and Inclusion
Khira Griscavage, Associate Chancellor
Nils Gilman, Associate Chancellor and Chief of Staff to the Chancellor
Angelica Stacy, Associate Vice Provost for the Faculty; Professor of Chemistry Fabrizio Mejia, Executive Director, Centers of Educational Equity and Excellence Karen Nielson, Director, Disabled Students Program
Derek Coates, Disability Compliance Officer
Amy Scharf, Project/Planning Analyst for the Division of Equity and Inclusion
Carol Christ, Interim Executive Vice Chancellor
Faculty Coalition for Disability Rights at UC Berkeley
Berkeley Disabled Students

— end PCSDR text —

—– Text of the Initial DSP Announcement email as provided by the Parent’s coalition follows —–
From: Karen E Nielson Date: September 2, 2016 at 1:42:56 PM PDT
To: Karen E Nielson , Peter M Dodson , BerkeleyDisabledStudents
Subject: Updated Invitation with location

Dear DSP Students,
Thank you to those of you who attended the meeting with our Vice Chancellor of Equity and inclusion yesterday. For those who were unable to attend, I am writing to share the following important information:
On Monday, August 8, 2016, UC Berkeley was notified by the State Department of
Rehabilitation, DOR, about drastic financial changes to the present contractwith our
campus. These changes included new guidelines, which require the campus to fully fund the Workability IV, WAIV, program services in its current form to maintain compliance with the state’s requirements.
Workability IV (WAIV) is a very restrictive workforce development program that is primarily funded by a state contract with the DOR. The current DOR grant funds four full time staff and a percentage of the salaries of two DSP administrators. Other department staff also contributes a small percentage of their time to the grant in kind.
This grant served 60 students with four full time staff during the 2015-16 school year. Only students who are DOR clients are eligible for WAIV services and the contract narrowly prescribes the types
of services and length of time services can be provided. In order to continue this program under the current requirements, UC Berkeley would have to immediately commit more than $200,000 of new funds to this program.
Due to the abrupt and unanticipated changes in the DOR contract along with the effective date of September 1, 2016, the campus will no longer be able to provide the WAIV program services. Services will be available to current WAIV students untilOctober 3., 2016. Other campuses will be discontinuing the grant program as well. We will be working with all current WAIV students, with student groups
and student leadership to talk about what a career services model for all students with disabilities should include at Cal moving forward.

The DSP Director, Karen Nielson, and her staff have set up open office hours for current WAIV students to receive any consultation, facilitation and or transition support needed as the campus develops
and implements a new model of service and provide guidance during this transition period.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the Disabled Services Program Office at knielson@berkeley. edu

— end DSP e-mail —

Join us for the first public meeting of the Faculty Coalition for Disability Rights (FCDR)

When: Thursday May 5, 2016, 10:00-noon
Where: 330 Wheeler Hall, The English Department Lounge
Guest Speaker: Larry Paradis, co-founder of Disability Rights Advocates in Berkeley, CA.

A newly formed organization on the UC Berkeley campus, the Faculty Coalition for Disability Rights (FCDR) now has over fifty members. This meeting will give us an opportunity to become acquainted and share our concerns about the state of disability rights at UC Berkeley. Prospective members welcome!

At the meeting:

  • FCDR officers will describe our founding and previous actions.
  • Larry Paradis, co-founder of Disability Rights Advocates, will give a legal perspective on Berkeley’s progress in achieving a campus environment that respects the rights of people with disabilities, including a status update on key Berkeley disability litigation, such as the student-generated Gustafson class action suit.
  • Our members will share current concerns and future goals.

We look forward to seeing you. If you have questions or need any disability accommodations in order to attend, including communication services, please contact ucbdisabilityrights@gmail.com.

Chancellor Dirks’ replies to letter from FCDR and DSU – after a 3-1/2 month delay

Chancellor Dirks’ response letter, March 29, 2016:

Nicholas B. Dirks, Chancellor
Professor of History Professor of Anthropology

Dear members of the FCDR, DSU, and SAO,

Thank you for your thoughtful letter of December 9th sharing the detailed feedback on the current challenges and status of services from students with disabilities. It is clearly the result of highly coordinated and collaborative efforts of dedicated students, faculty, and staff.

As is customary, I designated a senior member of my administration, Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion Na’ilah Nasir, to address the concerns raised in the letter. She responded promptly to graduate student and DSU Co-President Matt Griffith, voicing her support for the idea of creating a working group of faculty, students, and staff to evaluate our current disabled student services, with a view to making recommendations for improvement. Vice Chancellor Nasir will continue to take the lead on both the search for the Director of the Disabled Students Program and establishing an evaluative working group. As of this week, the DSP Director search is in progress and interviews are being arranged. Together, our offices are committed to improving the support for students with disabilities and look forward to staying connected on this topic.

The Assistant Provost, Equity Standards and Compliance position is indeed one that requires attention. Earlier this semester we launched the search for the Associate Chancellor, Operations in the Chancellor’s Immediate Office. We expect this position to be filled before the end of the spring semester. This position (with some portfolio similarities to former Associate Chancellor Linda Williams) will provide leadership for Ethics, Risk, and Compliance Services. We made sure that the job description included notation of this position’s leadership for disability compliance. At this time, Interim Chief Ethics, Risk and Compliance Officer and Deputy Associate Chancellor Wanda Ellison Crockett has oversight of the Office of Ethics, Risk, and Compliance Services, and Derek Coates is serving as the Interim Disability Compliance Officer. I will be asking a soon-to-be-named new Associate Chancellor to prioritize an evaluation of the disability compliance needs, including giving attention to the Assistant Provost, Equity Standards and Compliance position. I recognize that your collective bodies hold a lot of relevant knowledge, and will encourage the new Associate Chancellor to rely on your expertise.

Thank you all for your dedication to and advocacy for campus community members with disabilities. Please know that I have received and heard your comments and remain committed to improving disability services.
Do not hesitate to contact me again with further comments


Nicholas B. Dirks

FCDR’s response on April 12, 2016:

Dear Chancellor Dirks,

Thank you for your letter of March 29, 2016. This was a response to a letter of concern that we (the Disabled Students Union, the Faculty Coalition for Disability Rights, and the Student Advocate’s Office) had sent you on December 9, 2015.

Given the campus commitment to equity, inclusion, and diversity, we are dismayed that a letter from a coalition of faculty and students who represent a protected class under civil rights law would only warrant a formal response from our campus administration after three and a half months. While Vice Chancellor Nasir sent an informal email to one of our signatories on January 26, this was not a formal response to our group letter of December 9, nor did she intend it to be. The person you refer to as “Matt Griffith” is actually Matt Grigorieff, the co­president of the Disabled Students’ Union. The misspelling of his name, the delay in your response, and the absence of an apology for that delay all convey a profound lack of regard for people with disabilities. Most egregious is the fact that your letter was sent in a PDF format that is inaccessible to individuals with visual impairments who use assistive technology.

Beyond the matters of protocol outlined above, the substance of our letter seems to have been largely unaddressed. Our pending concerns include:

  • Your letter mentions that a working group of faculty, staff, and students with disability concerns has been established in consultation with the Disabled Students Union. However the leadership of the DSU has not heard of any committee organized by Vice Chancellor Nasir or the Chancellor’s office for disabled student services for grad students, nor were they contacted.

  • Two important campus leadership positions related to disability are presently, or soon will be, vacant. As we made clear in our last letter, people with disabilities wish to be included in the process of finding replacements. The search for a Permanent Associate Chancellor for Ethics, Risk and Compliance, to replace the Assistant Provost for Equity Standard and Compliance stipulated by the Gustafson Settlement, is underway, however to our knowledge there has been no consultation or involvement of disabled faculty staff or students.

  • It also appears that this senior administrative position is being reconfigured in substantial ways. Have people with disabilities been included and consulted in this administrative redesign process? If so, how? The change in job title indicates a shift in focus (both in spirit and in letter) that may be in violation of the Gustafson Settlement.

  • We also asked that people with disabilities be substantively involved in the search for the Disabled Students Program Director. True inclusion would mean having input on formative discussions about the advertisement, search criteria, and search plan, as well as participating in the selection process. It remains unclear from your letter whether such consultation has happened.

  • A premise of the disability rights movement is “nothing about us without us.” It appears that important matters “about” those of us with disabilities are being decided without including us. Or is there another perspective you would like to bring forward?

  • Our letter focuses on the concerns of both students and faculty with disabilities, yet your letter only addresses students. We would like to hear about the administration’s commitment to making Berkeley a more hospitable place for faculty with disabilities as well.

  • We have urged the administration to incorporate accessibility into all facets of strategic planning. There are many new strategic initiatives presently being launched on our campus. How is accessibility being incorporated into these plans?

  • The Disabled Students Union and FCDR would like the campus to organize a task force / campus review committee on disability for UC Berkeley as a whole (including academics, accommodations, wellness and fitness, social inclusion, staff, etc.). In the 2013 campus climate survey, people with disabilities are identified as one of the historically marginalized groups that report elevated experiences of exclusion on our campus. While 25% of the general population experiences exclusion, this figure among people with disabilities rises to 39%. This places people with disabilities in proximity to the survey’s findings on African Americans (42% of whom experience exclusion) and Chicano/Latinos (34%). The campus has launched the African American Initiative and the Chicano/Latino Task Force in order to address the findings of the campus climate survey. It’s time for a Task Force on People with Disabilities.

Overall we assert that the campus must move beyond a narrow, legalistic, and often symbolic “compliance” framework that forces people with disabilities to complain, grieve, or file a lawsuit in order to gain full access to our institution and educational programs. This doesn’t create a welcoming climate for people with disabilities. We need to adopt instead a more holistic and proactive approach that exemplifies true inclusion and equity. The Americans with Disabilities Act establishes the “floor” of bare minimum access not the “ceiling.” Berkeley needs to aim higher than the floor. Accessibility always works best when it is planned from the outset rather than added on later as an afterthought or a work­around. The complaint­based system that exists
now requires disabled faculty, staff and students to devote time and effort to access issues—time that would be better spent on teaching, learning, research and service. We would like to hear your response to this core recommendation, which is the most foundational of all the issues we have raised.

We appreciate that your letter indicates you have heard our concerns. However we do not yet see evidence that the content of our letter actually has been heard. We would very much like things to be otherwise. It’s not too late to start anew. While the 2013 campus climate survey found that a chief barrier to campus achievement of equity, diversity and inclusion objectives is that “top administrators aren’t committed to promoting respect and understanding,” we invite you to lead our campus in a new direction, one that will achieve Berkeley’s stated goals of “access and excellence.” When people with disabilities are given access to the campus—to our classrooms, our departments, our governance and decision­making—they can and do contribute much to Berkeley’s excellence. Including us in decisions about us is the very best way for campus leadership to promote a culture of respect and understanding for people with disabilities.


Disabled Students Union at Cal (DSU)
Matt Grigorieff, Co-President
Peter Dodson, Co-President
Alisha Howell, Co-Vice President
Nidhi Chandra, Co-Vice President

Faculty Coalition for Disability Rights at UC Berkeley (FCDR)

Catherine Cole, President
Chair and Professor, Theater, Dance and Performance Studies

Katherine Sherwood, Vice President
Professor, Art Practice

Georgina Kleege, Secretary
Lecturer SOE, English

Charlotte Smith, Treasurer
Lecturer, School of Public Health

Karen Nakamura, Member-at-Large
Endowed Chair, Disability Studies Research Cluster, Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society

Susan Schweik, Member-at-Large
Professor, English

ASUC Student Advocate’s Office (SAO)
Selina Jane Lao, Chief of Staff
Nidhi Chandra, Caseworker

Original Letters:

Chancellor Dirks’ response letter (pdf)

Follow-up regarding disability concerns (pdf)

Daily Californian: Students with disabilities battle inaccessibility and isolation

As a mechanical engineering student, Drew McPherson came to UC Berkeley expecting complex problems, but navigating Cory Hall wasn’t one of them.

Cory Hall sits at the northeastern corner of campus, near Hearst Mining Circle. The area is the campus’s engineering hub — a labyrinth of stairs and hidden elevators built on a steep gradient. But campus modifications that help most students can instead set up new obstacles for McPherson, who uses a motorized wheelchair.

On a recent rainy day, he tried to get into the elevator in the Cory basement through a back entrance, near the building’s juncture with Davis and Sutardja Dai halls. No luck — the basement was locked because of construction. Flyers taped to the doors mapped out an alternate route.

The locked basement meant rerouting to a different elevator, going back past the long line of trash bins and taking a narrow balcony path before finally entering Cory. Then, encountering a delay when the first elevator to come up is packed with people…

Read the full article on the Daily Californian.

FCDR partners with the Disabled Students Union and the Student Advocate’s Office to lobby UC Berkeley administration on improved access services

December 9, 2015

Dear Chancellor Dirks,

In 2005, Disability Rights Advocates reached a class action settlement with the University of California, Berkeley that was intended to result in comprehensive access improvements at U.C. Berkeley. The plaintiffs were a class of all students with mobility and/or vision disabilities at U.C. Berkeley. The lawsuit, Gustafson v. Regents of the University of California, was originally filed in federal court in 1997. In order to settle the case, the parties involved selected a panel of joint experts. These experts oversaw a comprehensive survey of the campus facilities, reviewed policies and practices that impact access, and interviewed students with disabilities to identify barriers to access. The experts then issued a detailed set of recommendations for physical barrier removal, changes in policies, and other access improvements. A comprehensive settlement agreement was negotiated and the expert recommendations were to be implemented.

As part of the settlement, a new high-level administrative position was created: the Assistant Provost, Office of Equity Standards and Compliance (AP-ESC). The settlement stipulates that the “AP-ESC shall be responsible for providing campus-wide leadership in disability services, including the programmatic removal of physical barriers to Access on the campus and disability-related accommodations, programming and grievance. The AP-ESC’s functions and responsibilities will be predominantly devoted to disability access and compliance. The AP-ESC shall have overall authority and responsibility to ensure that students with disabilities are provided Program Access to UC Berkeley’s programs, services and activities. The University will give the position overall monitoring authority over all Access issues related to policy, programs, equipment selection and environments. This Position will be accountable for internal monitoring of compliance with Access standards and ensuring campus-wide Access.” Further responsibilities for this role are listed in section III.C of the

With this settlement, U.C. Berkeley was on its way to becoming one of the most accessible campuses for students with disabilities in the country. We remain optimistic that the University will embrace its obligation to ensure that students, faculty, and staff with disabilities are fully included in its programs and activities, thus maintaining U.C. Berkeley’s reputation as a leader in access to education.

However, a recent degradation of services for students and faculty with disabilities is cause for alarm. We are especially concerned that the Assistant Provost, Office of Equity Standards and Compliance position is currently vacant, and appears to have been unstaffed for as long as a year – leaving the University out of compliance with the aforementioned settlement agreement. We are also concerned that the Director of the Disabled Students (DSP) Program, Paul Hippolitus, intends to retire soon and yet students, staff, and faculty have heard little about the plans to conduct a search for a suitable candidate to replace him. Without the filling of both positions, the decline in the quality of student, staff, and faculty with disabilities’ lives on campus will continue to steadily decline.

Recently, students with disabilities have reported to peer student advocacy groups on campus (i.e., Disabled Students Union, Berkeley Disabled Students, Student Advocate’s Office, etc.) the following concerns based on their personal experiences:

  • There have been reports of dwindling supports for incoming transfer and non-transfer students with disabilities.
  • Students have been denied or substantially delayed access to the disability accommodation of student course ‘note takers.’
  • Delayed availability of accessible course material (known as alternative media), due to a plethora of reported issues (faculty response time, overwhelmed staff, student confusion regarding the
    process), resulting in a substantial academic disadvantage.

  • Inadequate facilities and space for test proctoring services for students with disabilities, resulting in exams with accommodations taking place far after a request is submitted and/or exams being proctors with subpar accommodations.

  • The hiring process for important DSP Office administrators and staff over the past years have excluded students.
  • Difficulty accessing DSP ‘Disability Specialists’ and services provided by these specialists due to the current ratio of one specialist per about 400 students with disabilities in DSP (or 4 for over 1,600 DSP Students).
  • Loss of DSP Trio peer-to-peer mentor services that enabled students with disabilities to support and consult with one another regarding any difficulties they are experiencing.
  • Poor building infrastructure (i.e., elevators, universal changing / restrooms, accessible water fountains, ramps) that often only meet the ‘bare’ minimum of accessibility compliance guidelines.
  • A need to improve educational accommodation competencies for Graduate Student Instructors (GSIs) that provide exam proctoring and any mandated in-course accommodations for students with disabilities.

The Faculty Coalition for Disability Rights shares the concerns raised by the Disabled Students’ Union and other student organizations. As faculty, we have met with the DSU, with another group of disabled students on campus, and with individual disabled students enrolled in our classes. We have heard many stories that lead us to believe that problems at the DSP have now reached crisis proportions. We feel that a program meant to level the playing field for students with disabilities is now putting barriers in their path that will impair their ability to achieve academically, professional, recreationally, and socially.

As people with disabilities, we have additional concerns about access issues on the Berkeley campus—both in terms of architectural barriers and information technology that does not always meet standards for accessibility. Rather than listing the problems that we have encountered as individuals, we urge the administration to incorporate accessibility into all facets of strategic planning. As it is now, disabled individuals can register a complaint about a particular building or a particular website or online application that is inaccessible, and while that issue may eventually be resolved, it does not guarantee that a similar problem will not arise in a different building or a new online site.

Accessibility always works best when it is in the plans from the outset rather than added on later as an afterthought or a work-around. The complaint-based system that exists now requires disabled faculty to devote time and effort to access issues—time that would be better spent on teaching, research and service. In the past, the AP-ESC has been available to resolve access issues for faculty and staff, so we are concerned that the position is now vacant and we have heard of no plans to hire a replacement. The delays that students experience in receiving their DSP certification and the resulting delay in faculty notification impedes all faculty’s opportunities to reach out to disabled students at the very beginning of the semester. This appears to be a pervasive problem campus-wide that needs to be remedied immediately.

The Disabled Students’ Union (DSU), Student Advocate’s Office (SAO), and the Faculty Coalition for Disability Rights (FCDR) at U.C. Berkeley respectfully request that we be consulted and included in the search process for both the AP- ESC and DSP Director positions. All advocates are ready to assist in this process and are open to discussing the replacement of these two key leadership positions with anyone else the Chancellor deems appropriate. Thank you for your consideration on this important matter. Email contact information is available on the letter’s first page left side column.


Faculty Coalition for Disability Rights at U. C. Berkeley (FCDR)

Disabled Students Union at Cal (DSU)

ASUC Student Advocate’s Office (SAO)

Disability Concern Letter from Faculty Students and ASUC SAO (PDF)