The number of disabled undergraduate students has been increasing for decades, but the rate of disabled students who go on to graduate with a bachelor’s degree is still lower than those without disabilities—despite these students being similarly qualified when they enter higher education.
A 2022 review of 20 studies published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that universities are committed to reducing barriers so their students feel a sense of belonging and are not hindered in their ability to learn. However, some obstacles remain—such as in the physical environment, the knowledge and attitudes of instructors, and the accessibility of information. These obstacles lead many disabled students to leave school before they’ve earned their degrees.
As a college administrator, you can help support disabled students so that they can complete their degrees at your institution.
Addressing the barriers disabled students face
One of the barriers to success for disabled students is a lack of academic integration. Students who are not well integrated into the academic environment of their schools are less likely to graduate. This is especially true during the first year of college, which sets the foundation for their track to graduation.
Academic accommodations can help students who may need extra time or alternative formats to successfully complete tests and exams. However, many students are hesitant to disclose their disabilities and request necessary accommodations. In a recent CampusWell survey, 19 percent of students said they’d been diagnosed with a developmental, physical, psychiatric, or other type of disability. Most of those students qualify for academic accommodations, but 40 percent said they hadn’t tried accessing them.
In addition, feelings of isolation and a lack of social integration can hinder the social and academic success of disabled students. Addressing stigma, facilitating peer support, and building a culture of inclusion can help disabled students navigate these challenges.
CampusWell helps colleges promote a culture of inclusion and brings awareness to services that are available for students who need them
A CampusWell subscription includes regular content that covers eight dimensions of wellness, including physical, intellectual, and social wellness. This content is available and promoted—via social media and email—to all students and can help to reduce stereotypes and stigma. Along with educational articles and videos about disabilities, CampusWell’s content provides links to school, community, and national resources available to those who need them. Examples of recent features include:
- How accessing campus disability services can help you succeed
- All out of spoons? How spoon theory can help you self-advocate
- Think you’re neurodivergent? The pros and cons of getting a diagnosis
In addition to subjects covered by the content itself, CampusWell aims to ensure that all content is accessible and ADA compliant.
Part of CampusWell‘s exceptional ability to engage with students comes from sharing student stories through the platform—as well as by providing expert answers to their questions.
Some content written by and for disabled students includes:
- How I navigated college with a physical disability
- What I wish my neurotypical peers knew about autism
- Ask the trainer: “How do you exercise with arthritis, scoliosis, and other physical disabilities?”
Addressing social isolation
Integrating your custom content with CampusWell‘s online platform can help your school address the social isolation felt by many students, including disabled students. Subscribing colleges can create announcements, invitations, and reminders for students to attend events and join clubs to build social cohesion. In fact, many schools encourage their students to create custom content that administrators then simply approve and publish. This school-created custom content is distributed alongside the content provided by CampusWell and can help your students feel more connected to your institution.
CampusWell is a versatile platform that helps make a multi-departmental wellness initiative simple, enduring, and engaging. Using effective digital tools, high quality, research-based content, and proven marketing strategies, together with your existing assets, we deliver a campus-wide wellness platform that will positively impact your students and institution.
Carroll, J. M., Pattison, E., Muller, C., & Sutton, A. (2020). Barriers to bachelor’s degree completion among college students with a disability. Sociological Perspectives, 63(5), 809-832. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0731121420908896
CampusWell survey, September 2022.
Fernández-Batanero, J. M., Montenegro-Rueda, M., & Fernández-Cerero, J. (2022). Access and participation of students with disabilities: The challenge for higher education. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(19), 11918.