Undergraduate Educational Experiences: The Academic Success of College Students with Blindness and Visual Impairments

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Title: Undergraduate Educational Experiences: The Academic Success of College Students with Blindness and Visual Impairments
Author: Scott, Ricky
Advisors: Susan Osborne, Committee Member
Carol Kasworm, Committee Chair
John Pettitt, Committee Member
J. Conrad Glass, Committee Member
Abstract: The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore how fifteen students with blindness and visual impairments experienced their engagement in undergraduate studies at four 4-year universities and perceived their success. They also provided their understandings of the impact of institutions, faculty, staff, and others on their academic success. Previous literature suggests that students with blindness and visual impairments as well as students with other disabilities were academically successful in college because of institutional support and the positive attitude of faculty and peers (Baggett, 1994; Branker, 1997; Enberg, 1999; Fichten, 2005; and Roy, 2000). Findings from this study demonstrate that participants’ understandings and experiences with blindness varied and their subsequent adjustment and transition also differed. Participants described several factors that facilitated the creation of positive educational experiences during their undergraduate programs: positive exposure to a new region of the country, positive peers, supportive departments and professors, financial opportunities, and welcoming and diverse campus environments. As these students transitioned to the university, they utilized accommodations and services provided by Disability Students Services (DSS) to facilitate their access to the academic environment. The undergraduate students also described challenging experiences, including feeling academic discrimination, a sense of isolation, limited campus accessibility, and peer interaction issues. There were other support systems that facilitated participant academic success, such as mentors, family, administrators, and staff. This study concluded that blind and visually impaired undergraduate students were more likely to succeed academically when they felt a sense of connectedness with the university academic system. DSS is most responsible for facilitating that connectedness. Quality contact and collaboration with faculty were also important, as well as the attitudes of faculty, administration, and staff. The disconnectedness between study participants and the university system was fostered through inflexible bureaucratic procedures; the attitudes of faculty, staff, and administrators; and isolation from peers. Implications for policy include a recommendation for additional funding of technology-related assistance programs, in-service training on disability issues awareness for faculty and staff, and campus-wide committees on university accessibility. This study suggests future research is needed on the academic success of this population in community colleges and at the graduate level. There is a need for more empirical research and research on the population’s social integration. The study recommends that higher education programs develop self-advocacy programs for blind and visually impaired students, in-service training for faculty, and peer mentorship programs.
Date: 2009-11-05
Degree: EdD
Discipline: Higher Education Administration
URI: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.16/3692

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