Student Voices: A Qualitative Self-Awareness Study of College Students with Disabilities

Chen-Ya Juan, Ph.D.
Hsin Sheng College of Medical Care and Management

Penny L. Cantley, Ph.D.
Oklahoma State University

James Martin, Ph.D.
University of Oklahoma

Brad Mays, Ph.D.
Independent Researcher and Disability Advocate


Requesting accommodations in postsecondary settings requires students to understand their disabilities and needs and describe those needs to higher education faculty and staff. Young adults often have limited accurate knowledge and understanding of their abilities and disabilities. This qualitative study used in-depth semi-structured interviews to gain insight into the disability awareness process and development of six university students with disabilities. The six themes that emerged during this study include: (a) self-awareness, (b) disability awareness, (c) strengths and weaknesses, (d) identity and attitude, (e) differences and similarities, and (f) postsecondary experiences.  Findings inform K-12 and higher education professionals about critical skills that might increase the abilities of students with disabilities to successfully advocate for accommodations in postsecondary settings.

Keywords: disability, advocacy, self-awareness, disability-awareness, accommodations, and college

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