The Case of UC Berkeley, WorkAbility IV and the Disabled Student’s Resident’s Program (DSRP)

The DSRP (Disabled Students Resident's Program) at UC Berkeley has been cut, along with the WAIV program.

UC Berkeley has a long and glorious history with the disability rights movement. Indeed, it was the womb that gave birth to the movement.

Ed Roberts and the early “rolling quads” created the first Disabled Student’s Resident’s Program (DSRP) from what was once a hospital annex in 1962. It evolved into a program that provided students with physical disabilities the wherewithal to navigate campus and live independently from home (usually a first for the students). It taught them how to hire (and fire) attendents, how to find a mentor, where to find friends, and how to do this thing called “be a student” when you also had to figure out things like turning yourself over in bed at certain times during the night.

It is a powerful program, one of the shining beacons of UC Berkeley, a model of it’s kind, and emulated across the nation world.

This program has been cut. It has been completey sliced out of the budged by the UC Berkeley administration.

That such a program has been sliced borders on the unthinkable.

How is it even possible for such a program to be cut? With a history such as the program has, and with the support that it has behind it from alumni, people with disabilities and allies of the disabled community, how can university administration even think about ending the program? The need for the program, after all, remains present. There are still students with severe physical disabilities who attend UC Berkeley and require the assistance of the program.

So what gives?

I don’t know the full story. I also don’t know what has transpired in the past 6 years.

But I do know that somehow the DSRP became linked with the WorkAbility IV (WAIV) program, which I helped to found.

They became linked at some point after I left the WAIV program, and I suspect that they were linked because both were cooperative contracts with the state Department of Rehabilitation (DOR). That is, the state agreed to provide the funding for the programs and UC Berkeley was to provide an in-kind time match. Which is to say, for every dollar that the state provided, UC Berkeley was to match that dollar in time spent on the program by experienced professionals (whose time was worth money), and by the value of the physical space that the program occupied.

That was great, all very well.

Okay, I’m fibbing – it had a lot of problems! But I won’t get into it all here.

The main piece is that since the WAIV program was funded by DOR, every program participant also had to be client of DOR.

That totally makes sense – I mean, why would DOR want to fund a program that wasn’t serving people who are clients of DOR? Right? Right.

But while that made total sense from the DOR standpoint, it was a royal pain in the ass from the UC Berkeley perspective. With all the students with disabilities who attend UC Berkeley, only a fraction of them are actually clients of DOR. Of those who are not clients of DOR, many are loathe to go through the hoops of becoming clients.

When I was the program coordinator, I spent a good chunk of my time referring students with disabilities to DOR, and helping them navigate the DOR system, just so that I would have enough people in the program to satisfy the program contract. It definitely felt like I was spinning wheels. I could see how valuable the help of DOR actually was (and is) to students with disabilities – but DOR is not for everyone. So how about the students with disabilities who were not a match with DOR? Or who didn’t want to be a match with DOR? They were put by the wayside. The program was unable to serve them.

Contrast this with DSRP, which, as a resident program, is bringing in students who have been clients of DOR for a long time. These are not people who need some career counseling or an internship hook-up; these are people who need the program in order to attend university, full stop.

This is an enormous difference.

I think that these programs should never have been linked the way they were. It makes sense to me to re-evaluate the WAIV program and see if it’s really serving the disabled students and graduates of UC Berkeley in the best ways possible.

But DSRP? No.

DSRP is the foundation upon which “going to college” is an option for many students with physical disabilities. If you take that away, you are throwing a massive roadblock upon which their wheelchairs will need to traverse. Why on earth do that? Why throw that barrier down, when the whole point was to remove the barrier, to level the road, and make it possible for them to attend in the first place?

This petition is going around – while I don’t necessarily agree with the WAIV part, I wholeheartedly agree with the DSRP piece.

Please consider signing it, and pass it on.


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Meriah Hudson is a deaf and single mom of 3 (being deaf and single aren't correlated though). Global nomad, Trekkie, and instant pot aficionado, she likes her coffee hot and black.