Instructor Introduction to Student Support

This is a text transcript of a slideshow used to introduce instructors to student support and the Disabled Students’ Program (DSP) at Berkeley. Transcribed/lightly edited for readability by Peyrin.

See this post for an introduction aimed at first-time TAs.

What is the Disabled Students’ Program (DSP)

  • Some Goals:
    • Student accommodations and services
    • Collaboration with campus community to remove barriers to educational access
    • Implement the University’s values of equity and inclusion. An accessible environment universally benefits everyone.

Goals Today

  • Give you the tools to support DSP’s goals in your own classes.
  • Offer tips for handling accommodations and extenuating circumstances that is easier for you and your students.
  • Reduce burden on course staff.
  • Improve student outcomes.


  • Route communications about DSP and extenuating circumstances through limited members of course staff (preferably 1 DSP TA).
    • If one person is not enough, split the workload clearly. Some options:
      • Split the roster alphabetically by last name. This system is used by the ESS advisors
      • Split the workload by type, eg extensions v student meetings. This system is used in 61B and 61C, but requires robust communication between student support staff when handing off students
  • Create one form for all extension and accommodation requests.
  • Keep student documentation and personal information separate from course materials. Only the instructor, head TAs, DSP TA, and the grading TA need access to this information.


  • If you need documentation, an email from a student’s DSP specialist is sufficient. Do not request details or a doctor’s note.
  • All DSP information should be in a single place with access controls. Only head TAs, DSP TA, and the grading TA should be able to access it.
  • Do not disclose a student’s DSP status. Due to potential stigma, it should be the student’s choice whether to inform their section TA of their DSP status.
  • The DSP office verifies student medical information, and is an important layer of abstraction to protect student confidentiality.
  • While some students may want their discussion TA informed to more easily receive accommodations in section, others may not consent to their information being shared.

Let people know!

  • Announce DSP, accommodations, and the request form.
    • Include them in your slides during the first day of lecture.
    • Describe them fully on your syllabus.
    • Provide a clear link to the form on the course website.
  • Send an onboarding email to your DSP students.
    • This should be from their point of contact with course staff.
    • Describe the steps your course is taking to protect their privacy.
    • Give students the opportunity to state their needed accommodations in their own words.
    • If a student has accommodations that affect their section TA, ask if they would like us to disclose their status to their section lead on their behalf.
  • Keeping students informed will greatly decrease work for course staff.
  • A student’s own words are often more clear than the DSP letter.

Accommodations should be constructive and efficient

  • Extensions automatically apply to project partners.
  • Any slip-days in the course should be in addition to a student’s extensions
  • Create a fixed number of days for pre-approved short extensions. We recommend 3 or 4 days. This policy can be disclosed to DSP students, but should generally be kept internal to course staff.
  • For students without extension accommodations, regardless of DSP status, we recommend giving the DSP TA the authority to grant an identical extension if they believe the request was made in good faith.
  • For longer extensions or extraordinary situations, do not turn down requests made in good faith! Instead, escalate the request so head TAs, instructors, course managers and the student’s DSP specialist can collaborate to find a solution.

Support Students

  • Set aside some time to create email templates for common use cases.
    • Onboarding email for DSP students.
    • Mid-semester and near-end-of semester check for students who are struggling in the course.
  • Have a clear path of escalation for complex cases.
    • Who should the DSP TA contact when they receive requests that aren’t pre-approved?
    • Who will attend any one-on-ones for students who need larger course alterations or have missed large portions of the class?
    • If a student feels they may need to modify their participation in the course, help get them in contact with an academic advisor and, if appropriate, their DSP specialist.