Disabled Students Find a Top Program at UC Berkeley

Ben Chater is a UC Berkeley student. Respond at [email protected].

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A recent article in The Daily Californian reported on a lawsuit a group of former UC Berkeley students are bringing against the university for failing to supply adequate interpreting services to the hearing-impaired ("Hearing-Impaired Students Sue University For 'Unfair' and 'Intrusive' Policies," Jan. 28).

The greater objective of the article, however, was to bash UC Berkeley's entire Disabled Students' Program, labeling it as inconsiderate, biased, and unwilling to accommodate any students with unique needs. As I tried to get across to the reporters who interviewed me for this story, this simply isn't true.

I am from Vermont. I moved out here this past August to begin my freshman year. Being a wheelchair user, and because I require substantial physical assistance to do normal daily activities (getting out of bed, eating, taking notes, etc.), my college search was slightly more involved than it was for most of my friends. Not only did I have all of the normal decisions to make, but I also had to make sure all my physical needs were going to be met.

I looked at every institution in the country known for having any kind of support program for disabled students. The fact is UC Berkeley was the only school I found that made me feel completely comfortable with the idea of moving away from the network of people whom I had relied upon for support all my life. UC Berkeley's Disabled Students' Residence Program is truly one of a kind.

Not only is it the only program in the country that provides 24 hours a day on-call personal care attendant staff for students who need it, but its larger objective to teach students practical skills to maintain independence in the real world is also unique. UC Berkeley is the only institution I've heard of with such high standards and such noble ideals with regards to disabled students.

I'm not saying UC Berkeley's disabled student services are flawless. As recent news reports indicate, the services are far from it. I'm also not denying my quote in the recent article; the facts in what I said were true (even though they were taken out of context). I'm simply saying we need to keep things in perspective.

Many publications have rated UC Berkeley as the number one academic institution in the country for quality of disabled student services. UC Berkeley gives many intelligent students opportunities to succeed they might not have been afforded otherwise. Compared with disabled student services at other institutions across the country, UC Berkeley's Disabled Students' Program as a whole is not too shabby.


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