JPED Volume 17, Number 2, Spring 2004

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Spring 2004

Trying to Do the Right Thing: Faculty Attitudes Toward Accommodating Students with Learning Disabilities

Abstract: The following study explores faculty attitudes toward students with disabilities at a large research university. In the first phase of a three-year demonstration project, 14 instructional staff, including teaching assistants, faculty, and faculty serving as administrators, were interviewed to determine their informational needs and attitudes toward students with disabilities. Analysis of these narrative interviews reveals that the participants viewed learning disabilities differently from other disabilities and had questions regarding providing classroom accommodations for students with learning disabilities. This uncertainty stems from preexisting attitudes toward students in general, principles of academic freedom, and questions of the legitimacy of learning disability diagnosis. Recommendations for open discussion of faculty and student responsibilities toward teaching and learning on campus are discussed.

College Students with Learning Disabilities Speak Out: What It Takes to Be Successful in Postsecondary Education

Abstract: Erin sat in her graduation regalia waiting patiently for her name to be called to receive her long-awaited college diploma. In many ways, the thoughts going through her mind were identical to those of her classmates: excitement, relief, pride, and an eager anticipation of the future. However, Erin was also experiencing many emotions that only her fellow students with learning disabilities could understand. She vividly recalled the frustration she had felt when making the transition from a high school system where all of her educational programming was prescribed by law and structured for her by teachers and parents, to the college setting where SHE was responsible for advocating for herself. She recalled the anger she had felt toward a high school experience that failed to prepare her for the strange new world college presented for a student with a learning disability. No teacher, counselor, or psychologist had ever discussed her specific weaknesses with her. Nor had school personnel described the laws that apply to students with disabilities after they leave the structured confines of public education. Furthermore, Erin hadn’t had a clue as to the academic accommodations available to her. She remembered hearing about the section of Spanish modified for students with learning disabilities only AFTER she had failed the course in her first semester as a freshman. She also remembered how her trip to Disability Services changed her life. Gradually, with the assistance of DS, Erin learned the art of self-determination. Armed with proper documentation and support from DS personnel, Erin gradually gained the confidence she needed to discuss her learning needs with professors and request legitimate accommodations. Erin also remembered the unwavering support from her family and her friends in the LD support group. But, most of all, Erin realized that her success was due to her perseverance, reflected in her willingness to spend large amounts of time studying, often while other students were socializing.

Suddenly, Erin heard her name called. Her thoughts immediately reverted back to the commencement ceremony. She proudly accepted her diploma, waved to her family in the audience, and walked off of the stage, confident in the belief that the skills, knowledge, and self-determination she had acquired in college would serve her well in the future.

Structural Validity of the WAIS-III Among Postsecondary Students

Abstract: The recent influx of students with disabilities into postsecondary education has generated a concomitant increase in the demand for psychoeducational assessments that include a measure of cognitive ability, either to identify ability-achievement discrepancies or to rule out alternate or comorbid diagnoses. The most commonly recommended cognitive ability measure for adults is the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Third Edition (WAIS-III). However, evidence regarding the psychometric fitness of the WAIS-III for postsecondary assessments is needed. Of particular interest is its structural validity among these students. This study applied exploratory factor analysis to the WAIS-III scores of 183 students at a large Mid-Atlantic university who were referred for determination of postsecondary disability eligibility. The same four-factor model proposed by Wechsler (1997) for the general population was also appropriate for these students. Thus, these results support the use of the WAIS-III with postsecondary students with suspected disabilities.

Access to Information and Instructional Technologies in Higher Education I: Disability Service Providers’ Perspective

Abstract: Views and concerns of the professionals who deliver disability-related services at Canadian postsecondary education institutions about access to information and instructional technologies are presented. Findings are based on structured interviews with 156 individuals who represent 80% of the population of Canadian campus-based disability service providers. This makes the sample truly representative of the geographic, linguistic and institutional characteristics of the Canadian postsecondary educational system. Key findings in the following areas are highlighted: characteristics of participating professionals; their wish lists; current state of campus information and instructional technologies for students with disabilities at junior/community colleges and universities; important factors in meeting the computer-related needs of students; and the presence and technology needs of postsecondary faculty and staff with disabilities. The results point to (a) the need for better integration of adaptive computer technologies with general-use computer labs on campus; (b) improved learning opportunities for everyone involved, including disability service providers, students, and faculty; and (c) the need to ensure adequate technical support for adaptive computer technologies on campus.

Access to Information and Instructional Technologies in Higher Education II: Practical Recommendations for Disability Service Providers

Abstract: This is an applied companion to our empirical article elsewhere in this issue (Fichten et al., in press) on technological needs and concerns of Canadian junior/community college- and university-based disability service providers. Here, we provide highlights of our findings as well as timely, practical recommendations to disability service providers about ensuring access to the growing array of information and instructional technologies on campus. The objective is to provide (a) an overview of the emerging landscape of information and instructional technologies appearing on campus, (b) campus-based disability service providers’ views about these and how these relate to adaptive technologies, and (c) suggestions about how to be proactive on campus so that information and instructional technologies are accessible to all students, particularly those with disabilities.

Book Review Column: Faculty Disability Services Handbook

This book by Salome M. Heyward, JD, provides the reader with information and analyses of key issues in the field of disability services and disability discrimination law.