Chancellor Christ lauds FCDR for work on disability access and equity

Chancellor Christ recently wrote an open letter to campus on “improving the equity of experience for community members with disabilities.” In it, she cites the work of FCDR leadership:

“In this context, we also want to mention our appreciation for the work that the independent Faculty Coalition for Disability Rights (FCDR) has done in bringing to the administration’s attention the many issues facing disabled faculty, staff, and students. Leadership in the FCDR worked on many of the initiatives that are described in this memo and we look forward to continuing our work with them on making the campus more inclusive and welcoming.”

Chancellor Christ

The leadership of the FCDR look forward in working with the Chancellor and allied organizations on future initiatives that affect disabled faculty, staff, and students — and ensuring that this is campus that is accessible to all.

UC Berkeley Academic Policy on Disabled Faculty

Many disabled faculty aren’t aware that there is actually a policy on access and accommodations on campus.

First, is the overarching University of California Office of the President Academic Policy Manual 711-0 Reasonable Accommodation for Academic Appointees with Disabilities. This covers disabled faculty at all UC campuses:

Second, is the UC Berkeley specific Academic Personnel Office policy on accommodations, Berkeley Accommodation Process for Academic Appointees with Disabilities:

What is notable about the UC Berkeley version is that there is a $1000 limit on what departments have to pay for reasonable accommodations — after $1000, the burden then shifts to the university. One might argue that $1000 is still a steep amount especially for smaller units, and this may lead to unconscious (or conscious) bias against hiring disabled faculty, this is one of the areas the FCDR noted in the Disability Strategic Plan.

What is also concerning about both versions is that they have language that if in the view of the campus: if there is no feasible accommodation that will enable the academic appointee to perform the essential functions of the position, the University may initiate a medical separation review (see APM – 080, Medical Separation). Chairs should seek guidance from their Deans or other higher- level administrators before discussing this option with an appointee.

FCDR will be working with campus to clarify the conditions under which this might happen and appropriate safeguards for faculty with disabilities.

Prof.. Susan Schweik reminds us that in 2014, she, Mel Chen, and Katherine Sherwood wrote to the administration concerning the medical separation issue:

December 8, 2014

To: Vice Provost Janet Broughton
From: Susan Schweik (Professor of English), Mel Chen (Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies) and Katherine Sherwood (Professor of Art Practice) 

Thank you for your invitation to comment on proposed revisions to the section of the Academic Personnel Manual that involves medical separation. This is an issue of concern for all academic employees, and it is a specific concern for us as disability studies faculty who have had occasion over a number of years to talk with our colleagues about experiences of negotiating issues of disability and illness in our workplace. 

We appreciate the work done to align this policy more clearly with ADA requirements. We applaud, for instance, the addition of “or another vacant position on campus for which the appointee is qualified” (080-0,1). At the same time, the changes raise a number of questions, and we have serious concerns about several revisions, issues that we think deserve more scrutiny and also greater clarification for UC faculty. The opportunity to review the proposed revisions has also allowed us the occasion to mull over a few things that have not been changed in the new version but that we think deserve more consideration.

The ramifications of some changes are unclear. In the new version of the policy, for instance, the Chancellor’s authority to decide medical separation can no longer be re-delegated. We wonder about the effects of this change and the thinking behind it. We wonder, too, about the change, in section 080-0, from “Medical separation will be considered only in cases where a long-term or serious disability occurs that cannot be reasonably accommodated” to “Medical separation will be considered only in cases where a disability or medical condition occurs that cannot be reasonably accommodated.” With the removal of “long-term,” do these changes narrow or broaden the university’s capacity to handle cases of chronic illness or sporadic illness or other complex temporalities of disability? We are unsure, and we request clarification. It is important to ensure that the “reasonable accommodations” mandated by law for “disability” are not put under pressure by efficiency or other management mandates. We wonder about the legal meaning of “medical condition,” which in another document, APM-015 (The Faculty Code of Conduct) is glossed parenthetically on page 5 in the context of prohibition of discrimination with the phrase “cancer-related or genetic characteristics.” In all these cases we think the changes may merit additional explanation of the rationale behind them. 

Other changes give us serious pause. We are very concerned about the fact that in one suggested revision (080-20 Notice of Intent to Separate and Notice of Action, 5), the notice to the appointee of the intention to separate will NO LONGER INCLUDE “copies of the statements of the chair and/or Dean and/or unit head and any other pertinent material considered,” as indicated by the strikeout of such text in the proposed revision. All that would be provided in the new proposed version is the reason for separation and the informing of the right to respond within 30 days. We find this a radically reduced foundation upon which an employee could build an informed and effective response.

We also have concerns about changes in category (c), “Other Academic Appointees”, under the “Notice of Intent to Separate and Notice of Action” (proposed version: 080-20[c]). We object to the removal of the right of such employees to respond in advance of, or to have any effect on, a final decision to separate by the Chancellor. The proposed version removes the ability of “other academic appointees” to respond either orally or in writing within thirty (30) calendar days, and it removes the Chancellor’s consultation of any such response before making a decision to medically separate the employee.

Finally, although they do not involve new changes but rather concern language apparently already in the earlier version, we are taking this opportunity to register our concerns about two moments in this text that were, so to speak, pre-existing conditions. The first involves the use of the phrase “with or without reasonable accommodation” (080-0 Policy, 1). “Without reasonable accommodation” strikes us as potentially in opposition to the stipulations of the Americans with Disabilities Act as we understand it. Isn’t this phrase essentially the same as “regardless of reasonable accommodation”? Wouldn’t it make more sense to say “despite reasonable accommodation” or “despite every effort to reasonably accommodate”? Logically, the phrase seems to say: “it doesn’t matter, this question of accommodation.” It also seems to externalize the decision to an administrator, leaving behind the interactive process that should determine reasonable accommodation.

Second: while the proposed changes in the section on notice do not alter response times (other than the removal of the right of “Other Academic Employees” to respond), we note the extreme difficulty in the present environment for any faculty member (with or without tenure or security of employment) who must request a hearing within only 30 days of receiving a notice of intent to medically separate, given the seriousness of the matter at hand. We find this time period to be impractically short if we understand that the very issue at hand is that of medical difficulty. Not responding within 30 days effectively waives the power of the employee to request a hearing, and it exposes the process to a final determination by the Chancellor within 90 days of the original notice of intent to medically separate (which, without the opportunity to respond to avert, we imagine that the employee might suitably then expect anytime after the first 30 days). 

Thank you again for the opportunity to comment on the developing policy around this important issue.

Prof. Schweik says the Board of Berkeley Faculty Association also wrote to support the Schweik-Chen-Sherwood letter:

“On behalf of members of the Berkeley Faculty Association, we write to encourage the campus to take seriously the questions and concerns raised by Susan Schweik, Mel Chen, and Katherine Sherwood regarding the section of the APM that involves medical separation. As we understand it, some of their comments concern whether the proposed changes intended to better align UC policy with ADA requirements in fact narrow the university’s capacity to handle cases with complex temporalities of disability, and additionally, reduce the foundation for effective employee response. Some of their comments are not directed at the new changes but rather at existing, potentially problematic, language and policies in the APM. Though employee comment to only the proposed changes to the APM is being invited, we hope that you will also consider comments on how to further improve the existing language and policy. In addition to sharing these questions and concerns raised by Schweik, Chen and Sherwood, we would like to add another: what are the employee options for health insurance coverage after medical separation?”

There was no formative response to the concerns raised by the 2014 Schweik-Chen-Sherwood letter. FCDR will follow up with the current administration to see if clarifications are possible.

FCDR welcomes Cal’s new ADA Compliance Officer, Ella Callow

The FCDR welcomes UC Berkeley’s new ADA/504 Compliance Officer, Ella Callow, who started her position on October 17th, 2018.

Ella Callow received her BA from UC Berkeley in Native American Studies and Social Welfare and her JD from UC Berkeley Law. She is well known in national disability circles for her tireless work as the Director of Legal Programs for the National Center for Parents with Disabilities and their Families. This was a federally funded grant run from 2004-2017 through the disability non-profit, Through the Looking Glass, that helped both directly advocate for disabled parents, who often lose their parental rights to their children; as well as conduct critical legal research on ensuring parental rights. Ella wrote a significant portion of Rocking the Cradle: Protecting the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and their Families, which is aimed at changing state and federal law to ensure the parental rights of disabled adults.

After the NCPDF grant ended, Ella worked as the Disability Services Specialist for the City of Berkeley, ensuring ADA compliance for the city.  She also served as a Litigation Consultant for the U.S. Dept. of Justice, Civil Rights Sector. Ella has also worked closely with Native American communities and has published a number of legal journal articles about issues that face Native American communities.

In the last year, Ella co-authored with Prof. Sue Schweik and Lucy Sirianni a major policy brief for the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society titled State of Change: State-Level Actions to Protect the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and their Children.

UC Berkeley’s hiring of Ella Callow, who identifies as a disabled person, represents the culmination of a sea change that the FCDR has seen in administrative attitudes towards the disability community.  There has been almost a 100% turnover in the leadership of units responsible for disability issues on campus: Carol Christ is the new Chancellor, Oscar Dubon is the new Vice Chancelor of Equity and  Inclusion, Karen Nielson now heads the DSP, and Marc Fisher is the new Vice Chancellor of Administration. Each comes with a significant commitment to changing the climate around disability on the UC Berkeley campus.

The FCDR is looking forward to working with this new leadership to ensuring that the rights of all members of the UC Berkeley disabled community are protected, respected, and included.

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 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 —

Faculty response to DOJ online access response

On September 13, 2016, Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education Cathy Koshland wrote a problematic response to the DOJ’s findings and conclusions (PDF) that the university was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act in how it managed its online course offerings (MOOCs) as well streamed lecture content.

Many Berkeley faculty members were very concerned with the tone and content of VC Koshland’s response and wrote the attached open letter in response (full text also provided at end of this post):



We welcome additional signatories to the letter. Please e-mail if you wish to sign in support. Please include your full name and university title.

Update (2016.09.22 15:54): The FCDR has signed on as a signatory to the faculty letter.


Text of letter follows.

September 22, 2016


Dear Vice Chancellor Koshland:


As faculty at the University of California Berkeley, we are concerned about and disappointed with both the tone and content of your published response to the Department of Justice’s Findings and Conclusions as to how the university’s online course offerings violate the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. It is hurtful and harmful to suggest in any way that people with disabilities are responsible for a decision that might limit online courses and other presentations. This kind of scare tactic creates hostility toward accommodating and therefore including people with disabilities.  While we assume that you did not intend to blow a dog whistle that incites disability access backlash, we fear that this has been the result, which not only harms our students and the public who have disabilities but also the University’s national and international reputation.[1]


We suggest that U.C. Berkeley take the recently announced approach of Ford Foundation President Darren Walker, who wrote a public letter acknowledging the omission of disability in developing his foundation’s agenda.  Rather than becoming defensive, Mr. Walker admitted that in “the 18 months that we meticulously crafted FordForward—an extensive, exhaustive process—we did not meaningfully consider people with disabilities in our broader conversations about inequality.”   After apologizing for this omission, Mr. Walker went on, “… So how do we do this? How do we move from unwitting ignorance to enlightened action?”[2] This is the approach we would have expected of our University.  How do we do better?


UC Berkeley has a long and proud history as a global leader in disability rights, education, and research. As a result, we have a tremendous wealth of knowledge and resources on how to make education accessible. We have ourselves come up with policies that mandate access across the university. As far as we can ascertain, you did not tap any of the faculty or staff with expertise in the area of education and online access (we are thinking, for instance, of the knowledge that Lucy Greco in the ATTLC would have brought to the table), before issuing a press release which threatens limiting public access because of the purported costs of disability access.  It is worth noting that “public,” in this instance, excludes millions of people with disabilities, including our own students with disabilities who use these resources.  Moreover, your statement presents disability accommodations as the cause of a zero sum game. We know that making courses accessible means that all students and learners benefit, disabled or not.


The DOJ letter is an opportunity for us to acknowledge that we can do better.  We must comply with the law, but rather than being defensive and operating from a place of fear, we can be constructive and work towards our mission of public education.


We call on the administration to break out of its insularity and consult the deep well of knowledge and expertise that is already on this campus. We ask for an immediate meeting of administrators, faculty, staff, and students with knowledge and expertise in this area to work on constructive solutions to the problems that the DOJ letter has so clearly spelled out.



Sincerely yours,


Karen Nakamura
Robert and Colleen Haas Distinguished Chair in Disability Studies and Professor of Anthropology

Susan Schweik
Professor of English

Arlene Mayerson
John and Elizabeth Boalt Lecturer in Law

Georgina Kleege
Lecturer in English

Charlotte Smith
Lecturer in Public Health

Marsha Saxton
Lecturer in Disability Studies

Claudia Center
Lecturer in Law


Additional UC Berkeley signatories following the publishing of the open letter

 Mel Chen
Associate Professor of Gender & Women’s Studies and Vice Chair for Research; Director, Center for the Study of Sexual Culture

Katherine Sherwood
Professor of Art Practice and Disability Studies

Alastair Iles
Associate Professor of Environmental Policy and Societal Change


UCB Organizations signing in support of this letter

Faculty Coalition for Disability Rights

Berkeley Disabled Students



Updated 9/22/16 3:40 PM

[1] I.e., your language that “[we] must strongly consider the unenviable option of whether to remove content from public access,” has already been quoted in media, see Forbes article titled “Department of Justice Wages War on Free Education” (2016.09.21).