Editor’s Note: This writer is a New University staff member who is involved in the University of California Student Association (UCSA).
Being a disabled student at UC Irvine has given me a unique perspective on what the UC system can do to better provide for students with disabilities. I was invited to speak at the March 2023 UC Board of Regents meeting in San Francisco, where I stated:
“If the UC system wishes to expand its reach for disability justice, [there are] three key goals that the UC system needs to follow.
Number one is to mandate universal access across all UC campuses. Universal access is the ability for students with disabilities to register for classes with an online/hybrid option no questions asked, no strings attached.
Number two is for UC administrators to increase their funding and support for disabled resources centers so that they can provide additional resources needed to help disabled students thrive.
Number three is to implement disabled student unions and disability cultural community centers on every single campus in the UC system. It is incredibly saddening to know that disability cultural community centers have only been implemented at UC Berkeley and that disabled student unions are only present at UC Davis and UCLA. It’s important to expand on these initiatives so that disabled students can have a place to promote advocacy and solidarity.
This is a clear path for the regents, and by extension the UC system, to show support for the UC disabled student population and work to ensure a more inclusive, equitable future for the UC system.”
The reactions from the room were mixed. A few of the regents were supportive, but most of them were oblivious to the issues I presented.
It is important to continue addressing these issues at the next regents meeting being on May 16-18, and in any future meetings — where the regents will decide whether to increase funding for disability services across the UC system, affecting the lives of thousands of disabled students across every UC campus.
The following is an excerpt from an official UCSA public comment script used at UC Regents meetings:
“Across the entire UC system, the average disability specialist has a caseload of about 400 to 500 students, with some caseloads reaching 1,000 students. These massive caseloads cause month-long delays for students receiving accommodations. This can derail entire quarters for students due to the necessity of these accommodations in the completion of their schoolwork.”
The data cited in the document came from various internal staffing sources derived from DSC Directors and UCOP reports.
According to a report from the UC Office of the President (UCOP), more students with disabilities are being admitted into UC schools and seeking accommodations than ever before. However, there has also been no additional funding in Disabled Student Programs across all UC campuses since 2017. This data shows that disabled students across the UC system are dissatisfied; they feel that they do not belong and do not have the resources needed to succeed compared to students without disabilities. The UCs need to aid in making students with disabilities feel that their schools are places in which they can succeed and feel included.
The UCI Disability Services Center (DSC) is the predominant source of aid for students with disabilities at UCI. Currently, the DSC offers services such as holding tests at their office instead of the classroom and providing priority registration for classes.
From my personal experience, I encountered several delays over two months trying to get registered with the DSC before my first year at UCI. There have been numerous instances where I’ve waited for a response from the DSC for multiple weeks, only to be redirected to another resource center on campus because the DSC did not have the capacity to address my concerns. Eventually, I stopped reaching out to the DSC because I realized that they could not assist me properly, compared to various resource centers aimed towards other student communities at UCI.
These other centers, like the Womxn’s Center for Success and the UCI Latinx Resource Center, are accessible, easy to find, clear and helpful. And they have programs that exhibit solidarity and advocacy. The DSC, on the other hand, is located near the Antrepreneur Center, and in contrast, is far from the Student Center, where the other resource centers are located.
Additionally, I was unaware of what resources the DSC could provide due to a lack of clarity and communication. There is also a lack of community for students with disabilities, in large part due to the absence of an official support group. If the DSC can solve these issues, they could become a valuable support hub for disabled students at UCI.
Disability Services across the UC system are currently understaffed and underfunded, creating a large backlog of issues that causes great harm to students with disabilities across UC campuses. There needs to be a wave of support from elected officials, community leaders and student activists to push for increased funding for disability support services across the UC system. The UC Regents need to provide more resources and funding in order to support students with disabilities across all UC campuses.
Those interested in providing support for the campaign can register to hold public comment at UC Regents meetings.
One can also show support by following ACQUIRE, a UCSA disability justice organization, on Instagram for more information and updates about the campaign. Our voices are essential to help students with disabilities on campus through advancing the rights of disabled students across the UC system.
Frank Granda is a City News Intern for the spring 2023 quarter. He can be reached at email@example.com.