Perceptions of the importance of service components offered through the Office for Students with Disabilities at postsecondary institutions in North America

Date of Completion

January 2001


Education, Special|Education, Higher




The number of students with disabilities choosing to pursue education beyond the secondary level has increased considerably during the past twenty years. The increase in students has triggered a corresponding increase in the number of services and programs available to students with disabilities at college and university campuses across North America. Legal mandates have played a significant role in the increase in service availability. However, these mandates do not specify what service components should be available to students. So, while programs and services have proliferated their growth has not been systematic. Therefore, services vary dramatically from institution to institution. To date, the present study is the only research designed to empirically determine what service components professionals who administrate Offices for Students with Disabilities (OSD) consider essential for students with disabilities. The present study should help programs already in existence, aid in the development of new programs, serve as a tool for program evaluation and training, and, last, provide potential students with the information necessary to make a suitable postsecondary selection. ^ A 62-item survey was used to verify the importance of service components offered through OSD's. The resultant data were determined using means and standard deviations (research question 1) as well as the chi-square statistic (research questions 2, 3, and 4). A sample of 563 practicing administrators answered the questionnaire (70% response rate). These practitioners represented both U.S. and Canadian postsecondary institutions. Approximately 80% of respondents were affiliated with the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD), the professional organization for OSD professionals. Demographic data regarding these practitioners was generated. ^ The results of the study were noteworthy. Thirty-four of the 62 items were rated as essential (research question 1). Of the almost one thousand statistical calculations performed only 2% reached statistical significance. Thus, survey respondents, regardless of institutional location, size, or level of competitiveness showed overwhelming agreement regarding what service components are essential for students with disabilities. ^ Limitations of the study and suggestions for future research are also included. Since its completion, the data from the present study has been used to determine the AHEAD Program Standards for Offices for Students with Disabilities in North America. ^