Navigating DSP at Berkeley

“The Disabled Students’ Program (DSP) equips disabled students with appropriate accommodations and services to achieve their individual academic goals” with “respect, privacy, and confidentiality”

What is the Disabled Student’s Program (DSP)

The DSP office has several goals, including:

  • Providing a centralized body to manage student accommodations and services
  • Collaboration with campus community to remove barriers to educational access
  • Implementing the University’s values of equity and inclusion.

Why? An accessible environment universally benefits everyone.

Who is eligible?

You are likely eligible for the DSP program if you have to actively manage any of the following:

  • Hearing
  • Mobility
  • Neurological/Nervous System
  • Psychological/Emotional
  • Speech/Communication
  • Autism
  • Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Chronic Health
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Vision
  • And many others!

Why get registered?

Once you are registered with DSP, the accommodations formally listed on your LOA have to be reasonably provided to you in all of your classes.

If you are receiving push back in any aspect of your school experience, your specialist is there to protect your privacy and defend your right to accommodation.

Getting registered with DSP is a three step process:

  1. Get medical documentation from your healthcare provider (link to documentation, link to information about the application process)
  2. Submit application to DSP with documentation (more info)
  3. Schedule your Intake appointment with a Specialist by calling the receptionist at (510) 642-0518 or emailing the departmental DSP account at dsp@berkeley.edu. During this meeting, your DSP specialist will determine which accommodations to put formally on your letter of accommodation (LOA)

Hiring Crisis

The DSP office is currently in the middle of a hiring crisis, and thus is unable to support students even to the minimum level

  • The DSP office typically has 8 staffers (called specialists) who each manage ~1/8th of the undergraduate population registered with DSP.
    • Currently, 4 out of these 8 specialists have quit or are on indefinite leave.
  • This means that many students are stuck in the registration pipeline, having submitted their paperwork but awaiting their intake appointment.
    • In this time period, most courses might challenge your right to accommodation due to your current lack of formal LOA. However, this lack of LOA is obviously not your fault.

So what can we do during the crisis?

Remind your course staff that accommodations are required by law.

Under ADA and 504, when the system that manages LOAs has a breakdown (now) courses must work with students themselves to come to a set of agreements to ensure the student has reasonable access to the course.

All that matters is that this discussion is “in good faith.” Don’t lie to them, but do tell them what you need. They have to then work with you to ensure your needs are met until you get your accurate, up to date, and formal LOA.

How do I find a mental health provider?

If you are navigating this yourself, I strongly recommend reaching out for additional resources and support. Finding a practitioner can feel like a whole course on top of your expected coursework and can be extremely stressful. There are people in the department who can help.

Finding a provider with SHIP

First, make an appointment with Tang. You can do this 2 ways:

  1. Call (510) 642-9494 on a day that you are willing to have an appointment (same day appointments). I strongly suggest calling before 9am, and maybe even between 8am and 8:30am to ensure you can sign up for an appointment before they are all booked. They can go fast.
  2. Given same-day appointments may book up early in the day, you can also book on eTang. Appointments may be available as soon as the night before and as long as a few weeks in advance.

Then, once you have an appointment with a therapist, you can ask them to help you to find an in network long term provider. The practitioner that sees you for this first appointment is limited in that they can only see you 6 times a school year, so it is best to use some of those appointments to help aid the search for a long term provider.

They will point you to the database, but I would recommend asking them to walk through the options with you and help you send out a few initial emails. I would recommend contacting 5-10 practitioners, as Berkeley mental health providers are often full (not accepting new patients) even if the database says that they are :/

This database will let you search for different specialists, such as talk therapy, family counseling, medication management, etc.

Finding a provider with private insurance

Call your health insurance directly.

Often mental health services are managed through a separate program called “behavioral health” and typically can require a different phone number. If you get the physical health center, they should be able to connect you with the behavioral health department.

Ask them to help you make an appointment with a provider in your area.

Once you are on the phone with a representative for the behavioral health section of your insurance, ask for an “appointment search.” This means that they will record your zip code and desired type of support and will call providers in your area who specialize in your desired support. Then, they will email you with a list of providers who are currently accepting patients who are covered by your health insurance. Typically they will also let you know the expected wait for your first appointment (aka how long it would be until you were able to get in front of a practitioner). This makes it a lot easier because then you know that whenever you are able to find the time and energy to reach out to the listed folx they will be able to actually see you and schedule an appointment.

Insurance might instead offer a “provider search,” the difference being they email you a list of providers they have on record as accepting patients and specializing in your desired form of support. The reason I suggest “appointment searches” rather than “provider searches” is that often these databases can be incorrect, meaning the doctors provided might not be accepting new patients or perhaps might not even be medical practitioners (I’ve gotten McDonald’s and jewelry store numbers before).

Once you finally jump through all of the hoops you will make it to your intake appointment. Here are my thoughts and suggestions for this stage.

  1. Be as honest as possible. This is the person who will be entirely deciding which accommodations you receive on your LOA. These are the only accommodations they will defend your right to. This process happens during this meeting, so now is your chance to ask for everything you feel will improve your access to campus education.
  2. Ask for them to explain each accommodation you are granted. Courses often have incorrect information about what these accommodations mean and you can only flag these instances if you understand what you have a legal right to.
  3. Figure out how to best contact your specialist. You will have to reach out to them when you need your accommodations defended or updated.
  4. If they are going to deny an accommodation you’ve requested, have them document that decision.

Your rights

You have the right to equitable access to course content in an environment that makes you feel safe, welcome, and included.

  • Courses must provide reasonable access to your accommodations. If they suggest that honoring your suggestions would require a fundamental change to the course or method of instruction, ask them to reach out to your specialist for brainstorming.
    • They can use this argument to state that they will not implement an accommodation in a specific way, but then they are required to work with you and your specialist to brainstorm other methods of providing you reasonable access without fundamentally altering the experience you have in the course or your access to information and education.
  • Courses have to provide you the same level of instruction, feedback, and expectations as all other courses. Extra drops, ungraded work, etc are not reasonable access. You are entitled to the same level of feedback and support as non DSP students.
    • If courses try to do this or in any other way implement your accommodation in a manner that does not address your need and provide equitable access, reach out to your specialist.

Most importantly, your courses must treat you with respect and dignity as an individual. Comments such as

  • You don’t seem DSP/disabled.
  • Maybe you just aren’t suited to learn this subject.
  • I don’t think you are dealing with <your disability or its related symptoms>.
  • I don’t think you could get this much work done in this time period.
  • Have you considered a different discipline?

Are unacceptable. These are examples of discrimination in the school environment. Anyone who says this with you while in a formal position with the university must be reported. What they say is incorrect. We believe in your ability to succeed and consider you the expert in your own abilities.

What do we do when things go wrong? Report

The best contact to know is the Disability Access and Compliance Investigator, Steve Johnston.

You can submit a grievance (report discrimination or harassment on the basis of disability) or file a notice of concern directly with Steve.

You may speak to your department head (chairs, dean, director, etc) to attempt to reach an informal resolution within 60 days of the interaction or event. If your concern is not resolved within 10 days, you have the right to file a formal grievance.

Who else can help?


CS Department:

You are not alone.