Kim, W. H., & Lee, J. (2016). The effect of accommodation on academic performance of college students with disabilities . Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin , 60 (1), 40–50.

Journal Article

Kim, W. H., & Lee, J. (2016). The effect of accommodation on academic performance of college students with disabilities. Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin, 60(1), 40–50.


[First published online (10/8/15)]


Attention problem; Autism; Emotional/Behavioral disability; Extended time; Hearing impairment (including deafness); Intellectual disabilities; Learning disabilities; Multiple disabilities; Oral delivery; Physical disability; Postsecondary; Specialized setting; Speech/Language disability; Technological aid; Traumatic brain injury (TBI); U.S. context; Visual impairment (including blindness)




Various academic accommodations were investigated, including classroom and assignment accommodations and testing accommodations; this summary emphasizes the latter. Accommodations during course examinations included extended time, setting, and test format changes. Setting was termed "physical location" and referred to a distraction-reduced testing environment. Test format changes were termed "modification of materials" and exemplified by assistive technology for oral delivery of exams.


Data from 1,248 students at one university (Pennsylvania State University) who were served by the Office of Disability Services were examined. The total number of test accommodations requests was 1,055. The postsecondary students were identified with various disabilities: autism/Asperger syndrome, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, hearing impairment, learning disability, mental health, mobility impairment, neurological impairment (cognitive disorder), physical disability, speech impairment, traumatic brain injury, and visual impairment; several students (n=173) reported having more than one disability. Gender and race/ethnicity were also reported.

Dependent Variable

The cumulative grade point averages (GPAs) of these postsecondary students with disabilities were reported, as an indicator of both relative academic success and persistence. The researchers noted that other factors were also acknowledged as having likely influenced participants' GPAs.


Of the 1,055 testing accommodations requested, over 75 percent (n=801) were for extended time, 441 requests (42%) were for specialized setting, and 131 requests (12%) were for presentation accommodations such as assistive technology; some students requested more than one accommodation. Incidence of accommodations requests by disability type were also reported. Beta weights, indicating relative influences, of testing accommodations in the prediction of cumulative GPAs, indicated that extended time had the highest (and significant) influence on GPA, oral delivery and other test presentation accommodations also had a significant influence on GPA, and specialized setting were "not significant . . . in predicting cumulative GPA" (p. 5). Incidentally, classroom accommodations had a lesser relationship with cumulative GPAs, and only accommodations permitted during assignment completion was predictive of GPA. Limitations of the study were reported, and future research directions were suggested.