Yssel, N., Pak, N., & Beilke, J. (2016). A door must be opened: Perceptions of students with disabilities in higher education . International Journal of Disability, Development and Education , 63 (3), 384–394. https://doi.org/10.1080/1034912X.2015.1123232

Journal Article

Yssel, N., Pak, N., & Beilke, J. (2016). A door must be opened: Perceptions of students with disabilities in higher education. International Journal of Disability, Development and Education, 63(3), 384–394. https://doi.org/10.1080/1034912X.2015.1123232


Attention problem; Extended time; Learning disabilities; Physical disability; Postsecondary; Specialized setting; U.S. context; Visual impairment (including blindness)





Academic accommodations included those provided during classroom instructional activities and testing accommodations [This summary emphasizes the latter]. Accommodations during course examinations were reported as part of the research findings, and included alternate quiet testing room and extended time.


Interviewees were 12 postsecondary students with disabilities registered with, and receiving accommodations from, the disabilities services office at a university in the Midwest (U.S.). Students' disabilities included learning disabilities, sensory impairments, physical/mobility disabilities, and other health impairments such as Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Additional details, such as age and academic major, were reported for the students, who were assigned pseudonyms.

Dependent Variable

Researchers collected data including transcripts of semi-structured interviews. Validity and credibility of thematic analyses were completed using multiple data analysts.


The researchers reported that, different from their previous study published in 1998, students' perceptions were that faculty members were positive and willing to provide accommodations to support their academic progress. A few students indicated their perception that, while instructors seemed unfamiliar (and possibly uncomfortable) with blindness and dyslexia as it affects academics, they nonetheless sought to provide accommodations. In at least one student's experience, faculty efforts could be overly accommodating, which could result in providing accommodations that were not particularly helpful. Students predominantly indicated their desire to be permitted access to higher education, and some indicated their challenges in their own development of self-determination and self-advocacy skills. In fact, some interviewees indicated that these challenges—that is, their own perceived delays in forming self-determination and assertiveness skills—had in some cases become barriers to their academic pursuits. Limitations of the study were reported, and implications for practice in the postsecondary setting were reviewed.