Fleming, A. R., Oertle, K. M., & Plotner, A. J. (2017). Student voices: Recommendations for improving postsecondary experiences of students with disabilities . Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability , 30 (4), 311–328. https://www.ahead.org/professional-resources/publications/jped

Journal Article
Fleming, A. R., Oertle, K. M., & Plotner, A. J. (2017). Student voices: Recommendations for improving postsecondary experiences of students with disabilities. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 30(4), 311–328. https://www.ahead.org/professional-resources/publications/jped


This study is related to a study published separately by Fleming, Plotner, and Oertle (2017). This study employed different analyses, and examined different data from a subset of the population under study by Fleming, Plotner, and Oertle. [no doi reported]; also located on ERIC online database: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1163997


Attention problem; Autism; Emotional/Behavioral disability; Hearing impairment (including deafness); Intellectual disabilities; Learning disabilities; Physical disability; Postsecondary; Student survey; Traumatic brain injury (TBI); U.S. context; Visual impairment (including blindness)





Accommodations were not specified in advance for this inquiry. The perspectives and experiences of postsecondary students with disabilities were investigated; qualitative data were analyzed, focusing on suggestions for improvement at the three postsecondary institutions. Accommodations for course examinations were emphasized in this summary. [The other investigation (Fleming, Plotner, & Oertle, 2017) reported on the quantitative data relaying student feedback on academic supports and services for students with disabilities.]


A total of 325 postsecondary students with disabilities from three large public universities in different states (U.S.) responded to surveys disseminated by each university's disability services office. A set of 132 students who responded with comments to an open-ended survey item comprised the respondents for the current study. These respondents were described in terms of demographic information such as age, gender (male/female), and race/ethnicity, and other characteristics such as year in their academic program (82.5% undergraduate, 10% graduate level, and 7.5% other) and duration of disability. Disabilities included learning disabilities, attention-related impairments, mental health-related conditions, chronic health conditions, brain injuries, mobility impairments, autism, hearing impairments including deafness, visual impairments including blindness, and intellectual disabilities.

Dependent Variable

For the larger project, the College Students with Disabilities Campus Climate Survey (CSDCC; Lombardi et al., 2011) was disseminated to students with disabilities at three universities. Survey questions asked about campus climate and experiences with campus services and resources. Participants were asked to respond to an open-ended question asking about what their university can do "to improve the experience of students with disabilities"; 132 students' responses to this question were analyzed and reported for the current study.


Thematic analysis resulted in three areas for improvement: campus resources, academics, and campus environment. About half of the participants (n=65) indicated that resource improvements were needed, with 35 comments from 33 participants on disability services offices, 20 participants' comments on additional needs, and 19 comments recommending "increase the visibility and connectedness of campus resources" (p. 316). Both positive and negative experiences with disability services offices indicated that when working well, services were characterized as individualized, timely, and with expertise on a range of disability types and impairment severity. Additional needs that participants identified included personal counseling and exam accommodations, indicating that more exam proctor sites permitting quiet space and individual test administration were needed, especially at the time of academic term final exams. Improvements in academics were noted by 56 respondents (42%), with 35 comments on faculty-student interactions and 28 comments on accommodations—during instruction, for homework, and during exams—and noting that limited provision or availability affected course performance. Some students indicated that accommodations were linked more to disability type than to individual student need. Participants (n=17) suggested improvements to instruction and clarifying course expectations for students with disabilities. Further discussion detailed needs for increasing disability awareness and general campus accessibility such as physical changes.