Creating a more inclusive environment for students with disabilities: Findings from participatory action research

Melissa Bessaha, Rebecca Reed, Amanda J. Donlon, Wendi Mathews, Alissa C. Bell, Danielle Merolla


The goal of this participatory action research (PAR) project was to engage and empower students with disabilities and raise awareness of disability-related issues to campus communities. Ten student co-researchers and six faculty/staff co-researchers attended weekly research meetings to discuss challenges faced by students with disabilities. The team presented PAR findings to the campus community as their action project. Twelve themes generated by the co-researchers were presented and illuminated lived experiences of students with disabilities within university settings. Themes included the physical university layout and internal experiences such as internalized stigma and isolation from peers. Results of the PAR project as well as a focus group post-PAR project describe individual and systemic outcomes. This study demonstrates the power of incorporating students' voices in creating university programming initiatives that not only supports their academic success but also allows students to feel heard and supported. Success in increasing campus inclusion requires a collaboration among key university gatekeepers and students particularly in support of students who may not have visible disabilities.


students with disabilities; participatory action research; inclusive; campus environment; disability

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Copyright (c) 2020 Melissa Bessaha, Rebecca Reed, Amanda J. Donlon, Wendi Mathews, Alissa C. Bell, Danielle Merolla

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Volume 1 through Volume 20, no. 3 of Disability Studies Quarterly is archived on the Knowledge Bank site; Volume 20, no. 4 through the present can be found on this site under Archives.

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