Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Nyunt, Gudrun

Degree Name

Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)

Legacy Department

Department of Counseling and Higher Education (CAHE)


Issues regarding the provision of accommodations for students with disabilities exist in both traditional college environments and nonstandard settings such as medical and legal education settings. While the situation is less than optimal for disabled students seeking degrees in the general population, who are unfettered in their academic pursuits, little is known about accommodations for disabled students who are incarcerated and enrolled in for-credit courses through community colleges that have partnerships with local prisons. This mixed methods study is focused on exploring the current state of accommodation service provision by public community college disability service providers for disabled students’ who are incarcerated and are taking for-credit courses with a community college. An exploratory explanatory sequential mixed method was employed. Descriptive quantitative data was collected first via survey. Survey results were then utilized as a means to guide and inform qualitative interviews. Disability service personnel (n = 158) at public community colleges across the United States were invited to participate in the online survey. Thirty-three respondents completed the survey and 12 participants agreed to complete the additional, 45-minute qualitative interview. Findings identified that few college DS staff provide accommodations; the types of accommodations provided are limited; and the DS staff encounter complex barriers trying to provide accommodations. Three themes emerged as responses to barriers, including: 1) proactively navigating among multiple stakeholders; 2) making difficult choices about extent of DS engagement; and 3) raising awareness and engaging advocacy. The study led to the development of the Unlocking Abilities model, which can guide practice in an attempt to facilitate increased DS staff involvement with this additional population of college students. Practical strategies and other recommendations for improving accommodations to disabled students who are incarcerated (DSIs) and enrolled in the college correctional education program for-credit classes are discussed. Also included are three researcher developed tools to assist disability providers with assessing their capacity for providing accommodations to disabled students who are incarcerated namely: 1) The Correctional Setting Barrier Navigation Assessment Tool (CSBNA); 2) The Disability Accommodation Considerations for Community College Correctional Education Tool (DA4CE); and 3) Working in Correctional Facilities: Tips for DS Providers.


220 pages




Northern Illinois University

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