Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


School of Education


Special Education


Special Education EdD

First Advisor

Patricia Busk

Second Advisor

Nicola McClung

Third Advisor

Colette Cann


This study aimed to learn about the experiences and challenges of disabled students on college campuses. The qualitative research gave voice to the nine disabled students so we can hear, in their own words, their lives, successes, failures, most enjoyable aspects of campus life, and the least pleasant parts of the campus environment. Zoom interviews took place with nine undergraduate disabled students, eight with non-visible disabilities and one with visible disabilities, located on four different campuses within the United States. During the nVivo data analysis, three themes emerged. The three themes identified were: the disabled students' connections with the campus, relationships with professors, and accommodations coupled with the Disability Resource Center on campus. The findings revealed that ableism was present on each campus. The participants agreed they needed more voice and recognition on their postsecondary campus. In the participants' perceptions, the study facilitated an opportunity to voice their concerns and be heard. Postsecondary students who are disabled frequently encounter a hostile, discriminatory college environment. All nine participants discussed, with emphasis, as to their connections with the campus they attended. Although the nine did not each report they had a strong relationship with the campus, all indicated their connection affected their academic performance in some manner. The disabled students sought out connections at the schools, and seeking out those connections was a priority for each participant. Disability Cultural Centers were a strong positive connection for six participants. The six reported that the cultural centers were important in their lives. All participants in the interviews volunteered information regarding their relationships with the instructors on campus. Notably, no participants reported challenging encounters with the majority of their instructors. However, each participant did relate at least one situation that they considered adverse with instructors. The adversities ranged from failure to allow specific accommodations to a lack of support, leading to the disabled student either failing a course or withdrawing from a class. Developing knowledge of how campus members contribute to ableism, even unintentionally, is the first step toward dismantling systems of oppression that harms disabled people.