Crosby, S. (2015). Barriers to access: The experience of students delaying the request for accommodations at an open-access college (Publication No. 10102477) [Doctoral dissertation, University of Florida]. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global. https://www.proquest.com/docview/1786686908
University of Florida (Gainesville, FL); ProQuest document ID: 1786686908
Specific accommodations were not the central focus, but rather the perceptions and experiences of postsecondary students with ADHD and students with learning disabilities about the accommodation process. Faculty members' perspectives were also examined. However, the researcher mentioned various academic accommodations including those provided during course exams, such as extended time.
Seven postsecondary students with disabilities were interviewed. Their disabilities included: attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) (2 students), learning disabilities (2 students), both ADHD and learning disability (1 student), learning disability and anxiety (1 student), and learning disability and spina bifida. All participants had completed two terms at the community college prior to interviews. Additional self-reported demographics included gender, ethnicity, and their cumulative grade point averages (GPAs), and their identities were masked with pseudonyms. The researcher also surveyed 183 faculty members on their beliefs and knowledge about disabilities. Survey respondents came from across departments and disciplines, and served as an independent source of information about the sociocultural environment of this college in the Southeast U.S.
The researcher used an interview protocol for this case study investigation with students, and a survey of faculty members. Interview questions addressed objective matters including about timing of being identified with disabilities, as well as reflections about their challenges related to their disabilities and their decisions about delaying their requests for accommodations. Interview transcripts (which were member-checked by participants) were analyzed for themes. Additionally, artifacts were examined—including academic records, disability documentation, and advising notations—to further triangulate transcript data authenticity. The faculty survey engaged people from across the institution in providing a sense of the cultural and relational backdrop for the student interviewees. The survey included items about faculty members' experiences with students with disabilities and disability issues in general and their knowledge of laws, policies, and procedures regarding accommodation provision in their courses.
The researcher reported about the faculty survey findings when describing the social context and institutional culture regarding inclusion practices and perceptions of disability. Nearly all survey respondents indicated having had students with disabilities in their courses—typically made aware when the disability services office notified them, but some faculty members indicated observing visible disabilities and recognizing students' learning difficulties (when disabilities were not especially visible). The researcher remarked that faculty members demonstrated in their responses some misconceptions about disability; nearly 40% indicated that students with ADHD or learning disabilities might be unable to be successful. The responses also yielded that about 15% were uncomfortable teaching students with disabilities, and 30% were not knowledgeable about laws and policies about accommodating these students in their classes. Overall, the researcher indicated that the context of this institution was one of inclusion and responsiveness to students with disabilities. The postsecondary students with disabilities interviewed indicated that delaying their requesting accommodations have led to stress, anger, anxiety, embarrassment, regret, and relief "during various stages of deciding to provide documentation of disability" (p. 116). The challenges they faced were influenced by the relevance of their disabilities to their identities, in that self-perceptions of normality or abnormality were associated with their degrees of willingness to disclose their needs for academic assistance. When viewing disability as a negative attribute, students in the postsecondary setting tend to mentally calculate the balance of the social costs of their having disabilities with the benefits of accessing academic supports. The researcher reflected on the relevance of the student interviewees' insights to the potential of this knowledge to promote inclusion in postsecondary education, noting that institutions can serve as change agents, seeking to promote earlier disability self-disclosure by their students. Emphasizing disability services offices as resources and their staff members as transition facilitators, institutions can combine disabilities services office and admissions office staff members' efforts toward active recruitment of students with disabilities. In turn, these efforts can support students with disabilities in not delaying their seeking accommodations, and decreasing the likelihood of academic failure and dropout. Limitations of the study were reported, and future research directions were suggested.