University of Illinois at Chicago
SIMS-DISSERTATION-2022.pdf (1.77 MB)

Sharing the Responsibility of Access: Disability Services Practice in Higher Education

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posted on 2022-05-01, 00:00 authored by Nicole Sims
With nearly 20% of college students reporting having a disability, disability services play a critical role in supporting students' access to higher education. Disability services has been critiqued for practicing from a reactive mode and may benefit from the collaborative partnerships with campus disability studies and disability culture programming. A two-phased qualitative study using comparative case study embedded in an appreciative inquiry framework explored how the presence of disability studies and disability culture programming informs the practice of disability services at higher education institutions. For the first phase, the researcher conducted virtual interviews (n=38) with disability services stakeholders from the organizational units of disability services, disability studies, and disability culture from four universities throughout the United States. Interviewing created an opportunity for the participants to discuss their hopes for the future of disability services, creating a foundation for the second phase, virtual focus group. Phase two brought disability services stakeholders from across collaborating entities and universities (n=11) to envision a path forward for disability services. Findings revealed that service providers used a flexible blend of disability frameworks to meet the diverse needs of their students. Disability services practice was driven by resource availability. Disability services offices demonstrated interest in moving towards proactive practice founded in universal design principles. Lastly, all disability services stakeholders expressed enthusiasm to collaborate with one another and campus stakeholders to increase accessibility on their university campuses by looking for opportunities for systematic change, outreach, and relationship building. Sharing the responsibility of access was the goal that motivated all disability services stakeholders to continue to work to address the needs of students with disabilities in higher education. Implications for the present research show that disability services stakeholders’ enthusiasm should be harnessed to improve disability services by promoting the vision of access as a shared responsibility.



Magasi, Susan


Magasi, Susan


Disability and Human Development

Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level

  • Doctoral

Degree name

PhD, Doctor of Philosophy

Committee Member

Sandahl, Carrie Jones, Robin Hammel, Joy Kroeger, Sue

Submitted date

May 2022

Thesis type



  • en

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