Serving Students with Disabilities

Serving Students with Disabilities

Serving Students with Disabilities

Serving Students with Disabilities


This issue examines what student services professionals can do to ensure the success of the growing population of students with disabilities. The contributors explore the critical role that community and dignity play in creating a meaningful educational experience for students with disabilities and show how to help these students gain meaningful access and full participation in campus activities. In addition to such common concerns as fulfilling legal requirements and overcoming architectural barriers, the contributors also address a full range of important issues such as effective approaches to recruitment and retention, strategies for career and academic advising, and the impact of financial resources on funding programs and services. This is the 91st issue of the quarterly journal New Directions for Student Services.


Campus communities committed to providing meaningful access to students with disabilities reflect and learn from their history with other underrepresented groups, understand today's students with disabilities, and wholeheartedly embrace opportunities and challenges before them with solid grounding in the core values of our profession.

Linda M. Hall, Holley A. Belch

A series of legislative mandates in the past thirty years created access to higher education for students with disabilities. Demographic trends confirm the efficacy of the laws with regard to access as an increasing number of students with disabilities are enrolling in postsecondary education. Coupled with an ever increasing number of students with disabilities on campuses is the diversity in the type of disability these students have. In spite of these trends, students with disabilities have been less than successful in participating fully in the college experience and in attaining a college degree.

Legal Mandates

When Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was signed into law, higher education was required to take seriously its responsibility to accommodate the needs of students who are disabled. Colleges and universities have struggled ever since to understand their accountability for meeting the needs of this growing population.

Efforts to serve the educational needs of students with disabilities began more than 135 years ago when Abraham Lincoln signed legislation to provide funding for Gallaudet University, a liberal arts institution in Washington, D.C., created to provide higher education for students who are deaf. This legislation sent a message to the country and to higher education that those with disabilities are not “incapable of thinking, learning, or . . .

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