Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Accommodations in the College Setting: The Perspectives of Students Living with Disabilities

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Accommodations in the College Setting: The Perspectives of Students Living with Disabilities

Article excerpt

"I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed."

- Booker T. Washington

High school students with disabilities are attending institutions of postsecondary education in rapidly increasing numbers, with their rate of college attendance more than doubling in the past twenty years (Lovett & Lewandowski, 2006). Today, 10.8% of all students enrolled in postsecondary institutions are students with disabilities (National Center for Education Statistics, 2011). This number is an underestimate of the actual number of students with disabilities in attendance, however, as many college students choose not to disclose their disability (Cook, Rumrill, & Tankersley, 2009). Students with disabilities in the secondary educational system are protected by the Individuals with Disabilities Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEIA), which mandates that high schools provide a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment by developing special education programs and services which strive to meet each individual student's special learning needs. It can be a real shock for students with disabilities to learn upon graduation from high school and admission to college that the rights and protections for special education services afforded to them under the auspices of IDEIA no longer apply in their postsecondary educations. In high school, IDEIA places "the burden on the school to find and serve the student with an IEP. In higher education the burden is on the student, not the school, to find the appropriate services and navigate through higher education" (Wolanin & Steele, 2004, p. 27).

Students with disabilities who pursue a college education are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 - both are civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination against a student whose "physical or mental disability substantially limits one of more major life activities, such as. . . learning." Section 504 is designed to level the playing field for students with disabilities by barring discrimination and providing equal access to all students. Section 504 provides that "no otherwise qualified individual with a disability . . . shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance." Thus, Section 504 provides students with disabilities a means to receive accommodations such that they can have access to all school programs and activities.

This research project was undertaken to learn more about the perceptions of college students living with disability concerning their use of accommodations, modifications and adaptations in program requirements, classroom instruction, and assessment and how these accommodations support (or do not support) students living with disability in their college experiences. Participants were asked to discuss their perceptions of barriers and facilitators to disclosing their disability and seeking services from the disability office. The participants' perceptions of the usefulness of accommodations as well as their perceptions of faculty and peer attitudes regarding students with disability and the role of accommodations for students with disability were also elicited. The candidly expressed perceptions of the students with disabilities regarding their accommodation use can provide insight for disability support and other student services personnel, transition specialists, faculty, and other students with disabilities who are negotiating with themselves whether or not to disclose their disabling condition at the postsecondary level.

One of the beauties and unique purposes of qualitative research is that it can truly delve into the deepest thoughts and feelings and experiences of the people researchers wish to explore. …

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