Experience with support services of graduate students with disabilities studying at a distance: A Case study
Brown, Veronica M.
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This study examines the characteristics of graduate students with disabilities studying at a distance and their experience with formal disability-specific support services. Fourteen respondents completed an online survey exploring demographic characteristics, the use of support systems at the institution, their previous experience with support systems, and disclosure of the disability to the institution. Six of the respondents participated in an e-mail interview, where they described similar themes in greater depth as well as the impact of the disability on their studies, and the challenges and benefits of studying at a distance. None of the subjects used formal disability-specific support services. Reasons for non-participation included a lack of awareness about the services, the preference not to disclose the disability, and the availability of support from other sources. The most prevalent reason was that services were deemed unnecessary. Through effective study strategies and the development of their own coping mechanisms, these students appeared to be able to support themselves with nominal assistance from the institution. To strengthen support for these students, institutions can ensure more information about support services reaches students, faculty and staff have a strong understanding of disability-specific support at the institution, and avenues for interaction among students and with instructors are increased.