The Center for Students with Disabilities began in 1967 known as the Program for the Physically Handicapped under Public Health Services. At the time, Barbara L. Shea, R.N. was the Director of this program and expanded it 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. Improving access included reviewing building plans to ensure accessibility for the Student Union, Life Sciences, Administration, Jorgensen, School of Education, Beach Hall, and School of Business buildings. In June of 1977, the University of Connecticut enacted Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, making it a requirement that students with disabilities have equal opportunities and access across campus. As a result, the University continuously modified ramps, doors, lavatories, sidewalks and installed elevators in inaccessible buildings. While this took time to complete, in 1999 by New Mobility Magazine voted the University of Connecticut one of the Top Ten Disability-Friendly Colleges.
In 1992 that the office was renamed the Center for Students with Disabilities. Two years later, Donna M. Korbel, M.Ed., became 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 at the time 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 the state-of-the-art Student Services Center serving over 1,100 students.
As of June 2018, the CSD provides services for over 4,300 students with disabilities at UConn. The CSD is located in the Wilbur Cross building, on the second floor. The office recently underwent a re-design to expand our testing administration capacity; add offices for the University of Connecticut Interpreting Services (UCIS) team; add more work/learning spaces for the Beyond Access program; build a new tech lab; and adapt the layout of the front office to provide better access.
Today, the CSD consists of over 20 professional staff members, including a Director, Associate Directors, Assistant Directors, Disability Service Professionals, Accommodation Coordinators and Assistant Accommodation Coordinators, Assistive Technology Coordinators, Program Assistants, Regional Campus Coordinators, and the University of Connecticut Interpreting Services (UCIS) unit. UCIS includes a Director, ASL interpreters and Program Coordinators. CSD’s team also consists of Graduate Assistants, the CSD Tech team, and graduate and undergraduate student employees.
From August 2017 to May 2018, in collaboration with campus partners, the CSD celebrated its 50th Anniversary of providing access and services to students with disabilities at UConn. CSD celebrated by hosting campus-wide events including speakers, conferences, exhibits, movies, and more. These events aimed to educate the campus community on including disability as diversity, and explored the history of the disability rights movement.
In memorandum of these 50 years, the CSD created a timeline titled, “Milestones of the Disability Rights Movement Over the Years” to highlight the history of the disability rights movement. The timeline includes major events related to access and disability services at UConn: