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Survey: Only Half of Students with Disabilities Rate Their College's Accessibility Support Positively

Nov 14, 2019

According to a 2019 Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology conducted by EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research, only half of students with disabilities who need accommodations or accessible technology gave their institutions a positive rating. The survey polled over 40,000 students in 118 nationwide institutions to gather information about students’ technology preferences and experiences, which could be used to help make improvements and bring about more student success.

The survey results regarding accessibility show: “Six percent of our respondents identified as having physical disabilities, learning disabilities, or both physical and learning disabilities that require accessible technologies or accommodations for their coursework, and these students were less satisfied with their overall technology experiences at their institutions than their peers.”

The findings indicate that institutions are not meeting the needs for a significant number of students with disabilities. Twenty-one percent rated support and 24% rated awareness as poor or fair. Results also revealed that institutions were sometimes not aware of students' technology needs at all, for 11% with any disability, and a slightly higher percentage for those with physical disabilities.

One of the reasons, says EDUCAUSE, why institutions are unaware of students’ disabilities is that students often choose not to disclose them. Avoiding disclosure can be a result of prior experiences in early education such as being singled out. Research also shows students might avoid disclosing their disabilities due to negative experiences with faculty who question their needs for accommodations or penalize them. Some students believe services available to them are inferior, or they do not know how to go about getting them. They might simply be unaware services exist at all.

Accessibility in learning institutions makes a critical difference for students, parents, and the institutions themselves. School materials need to be accessible to students, regardless of their disability. Providing the necessary accommodations to students with disabilities levels the playing field for them among all students. Since parents, caretakers, and other family members help and support students, their accessibility needs must be met as well. Institutions that provide a sufficient level of accessibility help their students with disabilities succeed, while avoiding potential lawsuits and complaints.

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