Kutscher, E. L., & Tuckwiller, E. D. (2019). Persistence in higher education for students with disabilities: A mixed systematic review . Journal of Diversity in Higher Education , 12 (2), 136–155. https://doi.org/10.1037/dhe0000088

Journal Article

Kutscher, E. L., & Tuckwiller, E. D. (2019). Persistence in higher education for students with disabilities: A mixed systematic review. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 12(2), 136–155. https://doi.org/10.1037/dhe0000088


First published online (8/2/18)


Accommodation/s not specified; Disabilities Not Specified; International (non-U.S.); Postsecondary; U.S. context





Broadly, postsecondary educational success for students with disabilities was investigated in this review of literature. Along with institutional and student-level considerations, academic supports were examined as potentially influencing student success; this summary emphasizes accommodations during examinations mentioned by the researchers: extended time, assistive technology, alternate format, and distraction-reduced settings.


In this literature review, the researchers summarized and described 26 studies published in English—apparently primarily U.S. or Canadian contexts, particularly those 14 studies on accommodations—between 1990 (when the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed) and 2017. These studies were reported to address postsecondary education for students with various disabilities, and to consider student and institutional characteristics.

Dependent Variable

Studies bearing on persistence in postsecondary education were examined, including qualitative perspectives of students with disabilities—16 "views" studies—as well as quantitative relationships among student characteristics and contextual variables, with academic success—10 "effects" studies.


The researchers identified 13 factors that were shown to facilitate success for students with disabilities in postsecondary education, categorized as personal characteristics (5 facilitators), academic and social engagement (4 facilitators), and accommodations (4 facilitators). Personal characteristics facilitators were self-awareness, self-efficacy/confidence, autonomy and goal setting, empowerment and perseverance, and self-advocacy. Academic and social engagement facilitators were faculty interactions, peer interactions, disability-specific social support, and family and off-campus support. Accommodations facilitators—reported in 14 studies that sometimes addressed more than one facilitator each—were awareness, use, quality, and match. Awareness (in 4 views studies) referred to students' familiarity with supports available through disability services offices. Use (in 10 views studies and 3 effects studies) incorporated students' views of the usefulness of accommodations, and their relative benefits on academic persistence. Quality (in 5 views studies) was indicated by the perspectives of students with disabilities. Match (in 6 views studies) meant the degree to which individual student needs were met.