Students’ Perceptions about Successfully Transitioning to Postsecondary Institutions

Main Article Content

Dorothy F. Garrison-Wade
Jean Lehmann


transition, postsecondary education, supports


Through the auspices of federal legislation, students with disabilities are gaining access to higher education. Still for many students with disabilities, the paramount barriers facing them in their transition to postsecondary education are overwhelming. This paper reports the findings of a qualitative study of 59 postsecondary students with disabilities on factors students perceived to inhibit or contribute to their successful transition into college. The study examines support services and access to reasonable accommodations available to students with disabilities. Students reported the major barriers to accessing college and succeeding in college were societal attitudes, lack of preparation, and financial constraints. The students also identified self-determination and families as necessary supports that propelled their transition into postsecondary education.  Recommendations and suggestions for teachers, students, and families are presented by the study’s participants to support students’ with disabilities access and retention in postsecondary institutions.

Abstract 331 | PDF Downloads 101 Word Downloads 112 Text Downloads 127


American with Disabilities Act of 1990. (1990). 42 U.S.C., 12101.(PL101-336).

An institutional perspective on students with disabilities in postsecondary education. (1999). Washington, DC: National Center for Educational Statistics, U.S. Department of Education.

Benz, M., Doren, B., & Yovanoff, P. (1998). Crossing the great divide: Predicting productive engagement for young women with disabilities. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 21(1), 3-16.

Brotherson, M. J., Berdine, W. H., & Sartini, V. (1993). Transition to adult services: Support for ongoing parent participation. Remedial and Special Education, 14(4), 44-51.

Burgstahler, S., Crawford, L., & Acosta, J. (2001). Transition from two-year institutions for students with disabilities. Disability Studies Quarterly, 21(1), 25-37.

Carvin, M., Alper, S., Sinclair, T., & Sitlington, P. L. (2001). School to adult life: An analysis of transition programs serving youth with disabilities between 1986 and 1999. The Journal for Vocational Special Needs Education, 23(3), 3-14.

Field, S., Martin, J., Miller, R., Ward, M., & Wehmeyer, M. (1998). A practical guide for teaching self-determination. Reston, VA: Council for Exceptional Children.

Garrison-Wade, D. F. (2004). Exceeding expectations projection: A case study on students' with disabilities transition to postsecondary institutions. ProQuest, UMI Number: 3143824. Colorado State University, Fort Collins.

Hart, D., Zafft, C., & Zimbrich, K. (2001). Creating access to college for all students. The Journal for Vocational Special Needs Education, 23(2), 19-31.

Harvey, M. W. (2001). Enrollment trends for students with disabilities in Pennsylvania's center and technical education: What policy makers should know. The Journal for Vocational Special Needs Education, 23(3), 33-45.

Henderson, C. (1999). 1999 college freshmen with disabilities: A biennial statistical profile. Washington, DC: American Council on Education.

Horn, L., & Berktold, J. (1999). Students with disabilities in postsecondary education: A profile of preparation, participation, and outcomes. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education.

Johnson, D. R., Stodden, R. A., Emanuel, E. J., Luecking, R., & Mack, M. (2002). Current challenges facing secondary education and transition services: What research tells us. Council for Exceptional Children, 68(4), 519-531.

Lehmann, J. P., Davies, T. G., & Laurin, K. (2000). Listening to student voices about postsecondary education. Teaching Exceptional Children, 32(5), 60-65.

Lehmann, J. P., & Davies, T. (2001). Exceeding expectations: A model demonstration project 2001-2005 (No. CFDA 84.324M). Unpublished manuscript. Colorado State University, Fort Collins.

National Council on Disability. (2003, September). People with disabilities and postsecondary education. Retrieved November 22, 2003, from,

National Council on Disability. (2000, November). Transition and post-school outcomes for youth with disabilities: Closing the gaps to post-secondary education and employment. Washington, DC: Author.

National Council on Disability (NCD). (1989). The education of students with disabilities: Where do we stand? Washington, DC: Author.

Pierangelo, R., & Crane, R. (1997). Complete guide to special education transition services. West Nyack, NY: The Center for Applied Research in Education.

Rattin, S. E. (2001). An investigation of factors associated with academic success, persistence, and satisfaction of community college students with learning disabilities. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Rehabilitation Act of 1973. (1973). PL 93-112 87 Stat 355.

Reiff, H. B., Gerber, P. J., & Ginsberg, R. (1997). Exceeding expectations: Successful adults with learning disabilities. Austin, TX: PRO-ED, Inc.

Sitlington, P. L., Clark, G. M., & Kolstoe, O. P. (2000). Transition education and services for adolescents with disabilities (3rd ed.). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Stodden, R. A. (2001). Postsecondary education supports for students with disabilities: A review and response. The Journal for Vocational Special Needs Education, 23(2), 4-11.

Stodden, R. A., & Whelley, T. (2004). Postsecondary education and persons with intellectual disabilities: An introduction. Education and Training in Developmental Disabilities, 39(1), 6-15.

Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1998). Basics of qualitative research techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory. London: Sage Publications.

Tobin, R. (2003). Transition to adulthood: Experiences of parents of young adults with developmental disabilities. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Colorado State University, School of Education, Fort Collins.

Wehmeyer, M. L., Agran, M., & Hughes, C. (1998). Teaching self-determination to students with disabilities. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

Similar Articles

1 2 3 > >> 

You may also start an advanced similarity search for this article.