Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EDD)


Educational and Psychological Studies (Education)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Carol-Anne Phekoo

Second Committee Member

Soyeon Ahn

Third Committee Member

Debbiesiu Lee

Fourth Committee Member

Ana Menda


In the past few decades, higher education institutions have seen a large increase in enrollments of students with disabilities. Even with federal legislation such as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protecting the rights of students with disabilities, they are less likely to persist and complete a degree and less likely to become employed than their nondisabled peers. While the number of college students reporting some form of disabilities continues to rise, research suggests that a large percentage of college students do not self-disclose their disability status to their institution. Therefore, students who are eligible to receive disability support services are choosing not to use available accommodations at their institution. This study explored the institutional factors (i.e., accessibility, barriers, and faculty knowledge) related to the likelihood of self-disclosure of disability status to an institution and the utilization of support services. Furthermore, the differential effects of individual factors (i.e., background information, attitudinal barriers, belonging, and identity) and societal factors (i.e., stigma and perception) on self-disclosure of disability status and use of disability services were also examined. For the study, 282 students with and without disabilities took an anonymous, quantitative, online questionnaire that included opportunities for open-ended responses to explain answers. Results indicated differences on self-disclosure and use of support services by individual characteristics such as gender, race/ethnicity, visibility of disability, previous accommodation use, and income level. Furthermore, institutional factors such as accessibility of services, faculty knowledge and understanding, available support from faculty and campus administrators, and campus climate were significantly related to the likelihood of self-disclosure and use of disability services on campus. Implications and recommendations are presented, including the need to change misperceptions of disability through education. Open communication should begin in grade school, where all students can be exposed to the definition of disability and the services provided students with disabilities. Faculty members also need useful information on working with students with disabilities and how accommodations are necessary for their academic success. Students with disabilities want information about available services to be online and to include personal views from other students with disabilities, as well as specifics on how to request accommodations. Universities must encourage students with a disability to disclose as soon as they enroll by integrating that message into the first interactions with prospective students and their families, with new freshmen, transfer, and graduate students, and through mailings or website information provided to students and the public.


disabilities; self-disclosure; education; students with disabilities; support services; disability services; accommodations