The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 states that a person with a disability (1) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, (2) has a record of such an impairment, or (3) is regarded as having such an impairment (42 USC 12101 ). Students with disabilities experience specific struggles that negatively impact their academic and social engagement. However, their needs are often not met by higher education institutions in comparison to other student identities. This comes from the stigma in our society surrounding disabilities. Children are taught from a young age that it is inappropriate ask an individual with a disability about their experience. These children grow up to be adults who feel uncomfortable being around those who may have a disability.
This literature review will analyze issues that impede the social and academic engagement of students with disabilities and give recommendations on way to help remove the barriers. This paper will review the demographics of this student population, offer theoretical lenses to frame the problem, explore the barriers that students with disabilities encounter, and offer some practical outcomes that are designed to help this student population feel engaged with the institution.
The number of students with disabilities attending college has increased over the last 40 years. In 1978, students with disabilities were 3 percent of the total student population in the United States. In 2008, these students make up nearly 11 percent of the total student population. These disabilities are both physical and mental. Of the incoming first year students with disabilities, over 40 percent of them have a learning disability (Henderson, 2001).
Students with disabilities are more likely to be female than male. Nearly 58 percent of students identify as female and 42 percent identify as male. White students are more likely than Hispanic, Black, Asian, or Native American students to identify as having a disability. Over 66 percent of students with disabilities are White, 12.3 percent are Hispanic, 12.1 percent are Black, 4.8 percent are Asian or Pacific Islander, 0.8 percent are Native American or Alaskan Native, and 3.2 percent identify as other racial or ethnic groups (National Center for Education Statistics, 2012).
Students with disabilities are more likely to be between the ages of 15-23. Almost 54 percent of students are between the ages of 15 to 23, 20.1 percent are between the ages of 24 to 29, and 25.9 percent are 30 or older. These percentages are similar to the typical ages of college students without disabilities (National Center for Education Statistics, 2012).
Physical and learning disabilities are defined on an individual level. This identity is constructed by placing the individual with the disability against what society defines as “normal” individual. When...