Dong, S., & Lucas, M. S. (2016). An analysis of disability, academic performance, and seeking support in one university setting . Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals , 39 (1), 47–56.

Journal Article

Dong, S., & Lucas, M. S. (2016). An analysis of disability, academic performance, and seeking support in one university setting. Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals, 39(1), 47–56.


Attention problem; Emotional/Behavioral disability; Intellectual disabilities; Learning disabilities; No disability; Physical disability; Postsecondary; Student survey; U.S. context




The researchers investigated the relationship between seeking academic accommodations from a university's disability support services (DSS) office and academic persistence and success. Specific accommodations were not the central focus, but rather, students' actions when seeking and not seeking academic accommodations were compared.


Survey participants consisted of incoming university students (n=8,905) in Maryland who responded to a survey requesting information about their disability category for four academic years (between 2005-2006 and 2008-2009). Students self-identified as having psychological disabilities (n=108), cognitive disabilities (n=374), physical disabilities (n=243), or no disabilities (n=8,180).

Dependent Variable

For four semesters, the researchers longitudinally tracked the academic performance and persistence of students who responded to the survey, as well as whether the students requested accommodations each semester. Academic performance was operationalized by looking at whether students were on academic probation (as indicated by a grade point average/GPA below 2.0), were registered at the end of the semester, or were not registered at the end of the semester.


Analysis of the students' data revealed trends regarding the relationship between requesting accommodations through the DSS (disability support services) office and disability category, as well as relationships among requesting accommodations with DSS, being in good academic standing, and disability category. Cumulatively, students with cognitive disabilities had the largest proportion of students who requested accommodations (32.3%), compared to students with psychological disabilities (12.4%), physical disabilities (9.2%), and no disabilities (0.7%). The researchers noted that incidence of seeking accommodations increased from the first and second to the third semester. Students with cognitive or psychological disabilities who requested accommodations tended to be in good academic standing, compared to those who did not request accommodations, which was especially true in the third semester. Students without disabilities who requested accommodations also "were significantly more often in good academic standing" (p. 52) than those who did not. For students with physical disabilities, no significant difference was found in academic performance for students who requested accommodations and those who did not request accommodations. Limitations of the study were reported, and future research possibilities were suggested.