Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Leadership - Higher Education

Committee Member

Dr. Pamela A. Havice, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Robert C. Knoeppel

Committee Member

Dr. M. Janie Hodge

Committee Member

Dr. Tony W. Cawthon


This dissertation is an exploratory study on self-determination in students with disabilities in a postsecondary environment. Two questions were asked on self-determination levels in higher education students with disabilities and vital self-advocacy skills in higher education. A survey with closed-ended and open-ended questions was administered to gather data. Critical disability theory provided the conceptual framework for the study. Federal disability laws required students with disabilities be provided with transitional services which incorporated self-determination and self-advocacy skills from K-12 to postsecondary education institutions. However, a review of current research literature suggested transitional services might not be administered in the same manner in K-12 schools. Therefore, students with disabilities were not entering postsecondary institutions with the self-determination skills needed to be successful. The significance of this study was to critically review and provide further insights into self-determination aspects and self-advocacy development in higher education students with disabilities. The insights gathered from this study provided further resources and opportunities for university faculty and staff to support student development and personal growth toward increased self-determination and self-advocacy skills in the higher education environment. The purpose of this study was to identify factors which increased self-determination and self-advocacy skills in students with disabilities to assist their higher education degree obtainment goals. Data analysis revealed mixed findings with a range of self-determinations levels in higher education students with disabilities. Furthermore, participants in this research study expressed that barriers existed to receiving academic accommodations and self-advocating for personal disability rights. Barriers included talking with faculty about accommodations and social stigma concerns related to having a disability. Further research suggestions focused on social learning networks and identifying interconnections between students with disabilities self-determination, campus resources usage and demographic factors.



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