Fleming, A. R., Plotner, A. J., & Oertle, K. M. (2017). College students with disabilities: The relationship between student characteristics, the academic environment, and performance . Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability , 30 (3), 209–221. https://www.ahead.org/professional-resources/publications/jped

Journal Article
Fleming, A. R., Plotner, A. J., & Oertle, K. M. (2017). College students with disabilities: The relationship between student characteristics, the academic environment, and performance. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 30(3), 209–221. https://www.ahead.org/professional-resources/publications/jped


This study is related to a study published separately by Fleming, Oertle, and Plotner, (2017). This study employed different analyses, and examined different data from a larger participant population (than the subset of the population under study by Fleming, Oertle, and Plotner). Also downloadable from ERIC online database: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1163997


Accommodation/s not specified; 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 but were broadly defined for this inquiry. The perspectives and experiences of postsecondary students with disabilities were investigated; quantitative data were analyzed pertaining to student characteristics and to students' postsecondary experiences on disability services, faculty teaching, peer support, and self-advocacy. [The other investigation (Fleming, Oertle, & Plotner, 2017) reported on qualitative themes underlying responses to a survey item on suggested improvements.]


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. These respondents were described in terms of demographic information such as age (mean: 27 years old), gender (male/female), and race/ethnicity, and other characteristics such as year in their academic program (84% undergraduate, 11% graduate/professional level, and 5% other) and duration of disability. Disabilities included learning disabilities, attention-related impairments, mental health-related conditions, chronic health conditions, brain injuries, hearing impairments including deafness, autism, mobility impairments, 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. The CSDCC contained nine scales, with a total of 40 rating scale items. Survey item responses from four of the scales—on disability services, faculty teaching, peer support, and self-advocacy—were examined. Analyses were completed to "understand the relative contribution of modifiable and non-modifiable factors [student characteristics], as well as how the combination of factors might influence the outcome of interest" (p. 212). Participants' grade point averages (GPAs) were collected as an indicator of relative academic success.


Quantitative analyses yielded that participants who were older and who indicated having stronger self-advocacy skills (according to the CSDCC survey) could be predicted to achieve higher GPAs. Other matters, such as higher ratings on availability of academic and other support services at the universities surveyed, had less demonstrable influences on academic success. The researchers recommended that attention be given to transition programs between secondary and postsecondary education in fostering self-advocacy skills. They also noted that postsecondary students with disabilities have been demonstrated to benefit from the development of peer networks for social support and from having sufficient information about academic accommodations and services available at their universities, which can facilitate continued development of self-advocacy and lead to postsecondary success.