Message to Campus Disability Community re COVID-19

Your health and your wellbeing as disabled people is important. We know that COVID-19 can be more of a concern for segments of the disability community than the general population. Below is information specifically for our community, and some articles and think pieces by disabled people and organizations that take on this difficult time in a thoughtful and relevant way. 


As you may now know, the Chancellor has announced that beginning Tuesday, March 10, we will be suspending most in-person classes and will be offering ALL lecture courses (including discussion sections), seminar instruction and examination through alternative modalities (e.g., Zoom, course capture, etc.) through Spring Break. Disabled students have a right to be safe and healthy, and get their education. The tools are in place right now to help facilitate this. If you have questions about how this process will work with your accommodations, talk to your Disabled Students’ Program Specialist. If you haven’t used DSP services yet but feel you might need to, the process for applying for DSP is here:

DSP Specialists can conduct your intake by phone or online.  

Also, if you want to familiarize yourself with the suite of Instructional Resilience resources available to you, professors, GSIs, and groups of students (lectures, labs, and study/project groups), you can do so here:

There is a great “Tips and Resources” section that breaks down what resource to use for what - e.g. for access to lectures, professors or GSIs can add you to class by Zoom, or record the lecture and place it on bCourses. For asynchronous “Threaded Discussions,” the professor or GSI can use bCourses Discussions.


Staff with disabilities

The administration is encouraging managers and supervisors to maximize opportunities all staff to work remotely.  A request to telecommute should be considered a request for accommodation when the staffer links their request to a disability-based need. UCOP PPSM-81: Reasonable Accommodations, governs the procedure where staff requests an accommodation. In PPSM-81, § V(A)(1-7) (Required Procedures) the steps are provided to engage in the mandatory “Interactive Process.” If you need support or have questions on how to execute this process, please contact Disability Management services. If you have questions on the policy itself, please contact the Office of Disability Access & Compliance.

Academic appointees with disabilities

The policies and procedures for academic appointees that request an accommodation to telecommute that is linked to a disability-based need are as follows. General guidelines for faculty may be found at the Office for Faculty Equity and Welfare. Our campus accommodation process for academics may be found at Berkeley Accommodation Process for Academic Appointees with Disabilities. Some academic collective bargaining agreements also include Reasonable Accommodation articles. This is Article 23 in the Academic Researchers’ (RA) contract, Article 30 in the Librarian contract (LX), Article 20 in the Non-senate Faculty (IX) contract, and Article 21 in the Postdoctoral Scholars’ (PX) contract. 


For students with illness, there is a dedicated Nurse Advice Line 510-643-7197 that is 24/7 to help triage and advise students. 

At this point there are no special recommendations for those with compromised immune systems from our University Health Services. There are robust FAQ and recommendations generally, however, around both maintaining physical and mental well-being during this public health challenge:

Transportation and/or Personal Attendant Services

Many people with disabilities use personal attendants for transportation and daily activities of living. If personal attendants become ill, or are caring for loved ones who are ill, this could create a gap in support for disabled people in our community. Please read this article by the Center for Disability Rights “Action Steps for Attendant Service Users in Response to Coronavirus Disease 2019”;

Also, if you end up in a situation where you need emergency transportation or attendant services, these may be available through our local Berkeley disability entity Easy Does It, which you can read up on here

Service Animals & Emotional Support Animals 

For disabled people who use service animals or use emotional support animals as an accommodation, the questions of what to do to keep an animal safe and healthy takes on an even greater urgency than it already has merely due to our loving our companion animals. There has been some confusion over whether or not animals can contract COVID-19, or pass it to people. This guidance document by the World Small Animal Veterinarian Association contains common sense ideas for planning for healthy outcomes for you and your companion animal:

 Right to be free of discrimination

Harrasment or discrimination because you have a disability or are perceived as having a disability, is a violation of UCOP PACAOS 20: Policy on Non-discrimination, and PACAOS 140: Guidelines Applying to Non-Discrimination on the Basis of Disability. If you feel that your rights have been violated, including a denial of reasonable accommodations as a staffer, instructor, or student, you have the right to file a grievance with the Office of Disability Access & Compliance here:


Students who live in Residential Housing have expressed concern regarding what would happen if the university had to quarantine people in place. If that happened, it might be necessary to separate those who were ill from those who were not. In such an event, the university would follow our non-discrimination policies and ensure that any emergency/temporary housing programming was accessible and inclusive for those with disabilities.  

Thought Pieces & articles by Disabled People/Organizations 

The language and sentiments that are found in mainstream discussion of this public health challenge can leave people with disabilities feeling alienated and othered. It is important to hear those within the community name this, and also hear from community members on the challenge itself. We curated the following articles and think pieces for your consideration:

What you need to know about Coronavirus in ASL:

Five Things to Know About Coronavirus and People with Disabilities:

Disability Rights UK: Statement on Coronavirus:

The Cripples will Save You: A critical coronavirus message from a disability activist:

World Institute on Disability: Call to Action:

Finally, if you just need something to take your mind off of this, or off of school, and connect you to a good cause, local disability entity Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) is having it’s first ever “Napathon” to raise some money for disability advocacy (sounds like fun):


If you have questions or concerns, the Disabled Students’ Program and the Office for Disability Access & Compliance are here and happy to provide information or connect you to the right campus resource. 


Karen & Ella

Karen Nielson, JD

Director, Disabled Students’ Program

Ella Callow, JD

ADA/Section 504 Officer

Director, Disability Access and Compliance