Inclusion and Accessibility for Students With Disabilities in Higher Education

Inclusion and Accessibility for Students With Disabilities in Higher Education

Rebekah Dawn Dyer (Grand Canyon University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-9628-9.ch015
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Diversity is defined as the range of human differences. When considering diversity, it is important to include individuals with disabilities in the dialogue. There is not a single campus that is not impacted by disability. This population is often overlooked regardless of their specific needs and rights under the law. Each of the disability categories is a range within itself. No two individuals with the same disability are the same, as they are diverse within their commonality. Research indicates a lack of recognition of disability as an identity group in higher education. Disability is often not recognized in diversity and inclusion efforts. We are missing a large part of the diversity conversation when disability is not included. Higher education institutions must consider the diverse needs of individuals with disabilities to provide the appropriate supports, promote inclusion, and ensure the students can be successful. The intersections between race, ethnicity, and disability are a critical part of the diversity conversation.
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Why is it important to reflect on the level of supports for individuals with disabilities in higher education institutions? The number of students with disabilities enrolling in higher education has been steadily increasing since the 90’s. The number of students with a disability who complete their degree program is less than those without disabilities. It is important that the number of students with disabilities that complete their degree increases as this accomplishment can have a greater impact on their lives overall. The Taskforce on Postsecondary Education and Disabilities determined the most effective component that leads to financial independence is attaining higher education (Postsecondary Education, 2000). When an individual is impacted by having a disability it leads to a higher rate of struggling with finances and employment as an adult.

New college students are at a higher risk of dropping out if they do not experience a sense of belonging within the first eight weeks of arriving (Shaewitz & Crandall, 2020). Twenty-five percent of new college students who have a disability drop out by the end of their first year. Higher Education Institutions need to be proactive in embracing the diversity and inclusion of individuals with disabilities. This starts with the culture of the institution (Shaewitz & Crandall, 2020).

Individuals with disabilities are provided with specific rights under two main laws: The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). IDEA includes provisions for students with disabilities birth through the age of 21 through a document called an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Students must meet the eligibility requirements for one or more of the disability categories under the law. Once they are identified as needing special education services, they receive the needed accommodations, goals, services, related services and assistive technology. Similarly, ADA prevents discrimination against individuals with disabilities in the workplace and in the community. Students can receive accommodations under ADA if they do not have a disability but require accommodations to be successful in school. The accommodations can be provided through a 504 plan. ADA requires that employers provide the needed accommodations in the workplace for individuals with disabilities and they cannot make employment choices based on disability. In the community, ADA requires that all public buildings and settings be accessible, including public transportation.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Bias: Social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness.

Diversity: The range of human differences.

Ableism: The act of prejudice or discrimination against people with disabilities and the devaluation of disability.

Inclusion: The representation of all differences and experiences where differences are valued.

Inclusive Pedagogy: A foundational teaching concept that is increasing in higher education.

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