Paton, T. K. W. (2017). Examining academic accommodations for students with disabilities in a higher education setting (Publication No. 10690284) [Doctoral dissertation, Northcentral University]. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global.

Paton, T. K. W. (2017). Examining academic accommodations for students with disabilities in a higher education setting (Publication No. 10690284) [Doctoral dissertation, Northcentral University]. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global.


Northcentral University (San Diego, CA); ProQuest document ID: 2010611496


Extended time; Format; Postsecondary; Specialized setting; Student survey; U.S. context




The perceptions and experiences of postsecondary students with disabilities about the accommodation process and their sense of peer and educator attitudes toward accommodations in the postsecondary setting were investigated. While the study included consideration of various academic accommodations—such as tutoring and study skills support—emphasis was placed in this summary on course exam-related accommodations, including extended time, alternate forms of exams, and specialized exam setting for decreasing distractions.


Postsecondary students with disabilities at a religiously-affiliated private postsecondary institution in Central Florida (U.S.) participated. The known population of postsecondary students with disabilities was reported to be relatively small (n=60), and the researcher reported that there were 12 survey respondents, and six of those students also participated in individual interviews. All study participants' demographic data, such as age (19–23) as well as class year based on number of credits completed and academic major course of study, were also reported. Specific disabilities were not reported. Interview participants were selected using purposive stratified criterion sampling, based on their having disability diagnoses and having sought supportive services from the Academic and Auxiliary Services office.

Dependent Variable

A 14-item survey used closed-ended questions for gathering demographic data and open-ended items for perception information. For instance, a closed-ended question sought an approximation of which academic year that students asked for accommodations assistance; open-ended survey questions included inviting comment about helpful and not helpful experiences with seeking accommodations. Survey respondents were also asked which accommodations or services they have used, and which have been helpful to their success. The structured individual interview protocol employed 12 questions, asking for students' reflections on how their disabilities affected their postsecondary experience, positive and negative access experiences, barriers to their success, and supports including accommodations and services that have been helpful and any supports that are not available that could be helpful. The transcripts from the interviews of the subset of postsecondary students were coded and sorted to address the three research questions, pertaining to perceptions about academic accommodations provided in higher education, experiences regarding peer and educator attitudes toward accessibility and accommodations, and accommodations that support success. The research approach was a transcendental phenomenological design, and the researcher indicated efforts, and reported specific actions, toward increasing the credibility, transferability, dependability, and confirmability of data.


The researcher reported about the postsecondary student survey responses as well as themes from the interview data. Nearly all respondents disclosed their disabilities and sought academic supports in their first postsecondary year. About half of respondents typically ask for help, while the reasons that others did not do so were self-consciousness about drawing attention to oneself or worry about not being believed that they needed assistance. After having requested accommodations, respondents indicated that helpful factors inluded an easy routine process, accommodations were beneficial, and disability services personnel were helpful; unhelpful factors included that the process was initially unknown, required student initiative, resulted in not receiving the same accommodations as in high school, and that disability services scheduling and staff availability were difficult. From the interview data, at least four themes emerged, including "The Purpose of Academic Accommodations is Misunderstood" (p. 82), faculty members were perceived to have a range of positive to negative attitudes toward students with disabilities using accommodations, students with disabilities valued social inclusion, and the impact of person-centered planning on academic success. About 67% of survey respondents noted that exam accommodations being used and found beneficial included extended time and low-distraction settings. Interview participants identified academic accommodations that were personally beneficial: extended time for exams and assignments, technology such as speech-to-text and note-taking, study guides, and writing center scribe for term papers. Limitations of the study were reported, and future research directions were suggested.