Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation in Practice

Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Morgridge College of Education, Higher Education

First Advisor

Ryan Evely Gildersleeve

Second Advisor

Cecilia M. Orphan

Third Advisor

Chris A. Nelson


Content analysis, Disability, DisCrit, Higher education, Legislation, Policy


More students with disabilities are present on higher education campuses. This study examines enacted legislation of the 50 United States throughout an 11-year period of students with disabilities in higher education. Racialization of disability and representation in states’ legislation is examined. As the student body expands on higher education campuses, diversity comprehensively racially, ethnically and culturally grows. Four major federal laws: Americans with Disabilities Act and Amendments Act, Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 form the state disability legislation backbone applicable to postsecondary students. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 applies to preschool through high school students. Students, formerly special education participants, transitioning to higher education encounter completely different federal regulations for disability accommodations. Each state has built on these federal laws adapting legislation for their students and communities. It was shown there are gaps in legislation (intentional or unintentional) supporting students with disabilities and students of color, and gaps in the literature. A legislative relationship is needed to maintain the rights and equitable participation of students with disabilities. That student has the need and the desire to access academic, social, and professional successes. As diversity expands on campuses and as participation increases in the postsecondary space, data is collected, analyzed and applied. Information based policies regarding students with disabilities are impacted racially, ethnically and culturally. Legislation integrating the intersectionality of these aspects for individuals and groups will develop into (re)made equitable policy. Legislation sans this understanding, risks further marginalizing these students. The legislation showed a predominately medical or deficit orientation. There was little reference to race/ethnicity specifically. Rather, there was a lumping together of various groups as they were addressed in the various statutes. Recommendations include a greater emphasis recognizing, developing and implementing policies the intersectional core of the student as s/he/they transition from secondary into their postsecondary experiences. The use of universal design for learning and the DisCrit framework will benefit the student and higher education institutions.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Marie Orlin


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

197 p.


Higher education, Disability studies, Education policy