The Center for Students with Disabilities began in 1967 and was known as the Program for the Physically Handicapped under Public Health Services. Barbara L. Shea, R.N. was appointed Director of this program and expanded from the small department in Heath Services to an area in the commons with the goal to improve access to the University for students with disabilities. This included reviewing building plans to create accessibility for the Student Union, Life Sciences, Administration, Jorgensen, School of Education, Beach Hall, and School of Business buildings. In June of 1977, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was put into effect at the University of Connecticut, making it a requirement that equal opportunities and access be granted to students with disabilities. As a result, the University continuously modified ramps, doors, lavatories, sidewalks and installed elevators in inaccessible buildings. While this took quite some time to complete, the University of Connecticut was voted one of the Top Ten Disability-Friendly Colleges in 1999 by New Mobility Magazine.
It was not until 1992 that the office was named “The Center for Students with Disabilities”. Two years later, Donna M. Korbel, M.Ed., was hired as the Coordinator of the Center. At that time, staff consisted of a Coordinator, an Office Assistant, one full-time graduate assistant and two student employees. The cornerstone of improving access was the completion of an elevator in the Student Union and wheelchair users had two viable residential options to consider. In 2002, the program went from 330 square feet in one room in the Student Union serving 125 students to 3,600 square feet in twelve rooms in the state-of-the-art Student Services Center serving over 1,100 students. Today, the staff consists of a Director, two Associate Directors, an Assistant Director, a Program Coordinator, a Program Assistant, 6 Graduate Assistants, a Greater Hartford Campus Coordinator, a Stamford Campus Coordinator (50%), multiple sign language interpreters, CART reporters, and over 200 student employees. There are 30 new or renovated academic buildings with state-of-the-art access completed and 25 more are slated for completion within the next ten years. Students have 11 accessible residence hall options including a Greek village, three of which opened for fall 2003.
In June of 2008, the University Program for Students with Learning Disabilities (UPLD) and the CSD were merged into one center. UPLD was started in 1984 as a support program for students with specific LDs. From an original core of four staff members and 20 students, UPLD grew rapidly as more students with LD sought postsecondary education at the undergraduate and graduate levels. By the end of Spring 2005, the program had provided services to more than 700 qualified students with LDs at UConn.