Ruhkamp, R. (2015). Lived experiences of undergraduate and graduate students utilizing accommodations (Publication No. 3708584) [Doctoral dissertation, College of Saint Mary]. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global.


Ruhkamp, R. (2015). Lived experiences of undergraduate and graduate students utilizing accommodations (Publication No. 3708584) [Doctoral dissertation, College of Saint Mary]. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global.


College of Saint Mary (NE); free and open-access on CSM webpage:


Emotional/Behavioral disability; Extended time; Hearing impairment (including deafness); Oral delivery; Postsecondary; Specialized setting; Student survey; Traumatic brain injury (TBI); U.S. context



This case study investigation sought various information about aspects of support received by a set of postsecondary students. This summary emphasizes accommodations provided to undergraduate students during course examinations: extended time, low-distraction test environment, and read-aloud (and re-reading) by exam proctor; these exam accommodations were further described in the study findings.


Postsecondary students with various disabilities participated, including five undergraduate students and one graduate student , from one of two private institutions of higher education in the Midwest (U.S.). Disabilities included traumatic brain injury, deafness, and those associated with test anxiety. Students were selected who were ages 19 to 24, and who were older than 24 years old, for comparison purposes. Additional demographic information was also reported for participants. About half of the participants had begun receiving accommodations for disabilities identified prior to higher education.

Dependent Variable

The online survey completed by study participants incorporated questions about demographic and personal information, as well as open-ended questions about their academic experiences and about their perceptions of accommodations, including those used during exams. The researcher described this process as having an interview component in the sense that it requested survey respondents to provide explanations and details in their own words about their initial responses to objectively-worded questions. These written statements were coded, much like interview transcripts, and analyzed using NVivo software for themes.


Five participants reported The researcher described the model of themes, with four themes and several subthemes for each. The themes included the "A3 Model," with three components: advocacy, accommodation, and accessibility; positive tone; negative tone; and testing. Five of the six participants reported about needing and receiving accommodations during exams; the student who was deaf indicated not using test accommodations. Reasons for seeking exam-related accommodations included having already failed or otherwise done badly on college exams, and many had been anxious during exams. Most participants indicated that extended time and alternate setting (with decreased distractions) supported them during exams; one participant reported receiving read-aloud of items by exam proctor. Participants reported various benefits from accommodations, including better understanding of exam items and improved exam performance, and also other effects -- such as increased confidence and comfort, and a decreased sense of pressure. Additional instructional accommodations and their benefits were also reported. Emotions and perceptions about the accommodations process were elaborated, including nervousness about responses of educators to students' needs for accommodations, and concern about the possibility that accommodations would not be beneficial. Two students reported feeling guilty, and one expressed shame, about receiving accommodations when others (who presumably did not need them) were not provided accommodations. Three expressed frustration, pertaining to the process of seeking accommodations, especially initially. Three participants indicated that they ought to have sought accommodations earlier than they had. The researcher also compared the experiences of traditionally-aged and older-than-average students, showing little difference between student groups regarding testing accommodations, and regarding positive and negative experiences. Limitations of the study were reported, and future research directions were suggested.