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You are reading: Non-disclosing students with disabilities or learning challenges: characteristics and size of a hidden population

Susan Grimes, Jill Scevak, Erica Southgate, and Rachel Buchanan

Published in The Australian Educational Researcher, the Australian Association for Research in Education.
August 2017

Abstract

Internationally, university students with disabilities (SWD) are recognised as being under-represented in higher education. They face significant problems accessing appropriate accommodations for their disability. Academic outcomes for this group are lower in terms of achievement and graduation rates. The true size of the SWD group at university is suggested to be different to that reported due to students not disclosing their disability for a variety of reasons including stigma, fear of discrimination, past negative experiences, and gaps in knowledge about available institutional support and accommodations. Research suggests that students do not consider their issues to fall under the term disability, resulting in a hidden population of students who could be better supported by their university. Using an Australian regional university as a case study, this paper examines the SWD population by identifying both disclosed and non-disclosed SWD populations within the domestic undergraduate population as well as information on the nature of students’ diagnoses or assessment, not previously captured. Using an anonymous online survey which reframed disability using the non-deficit language of learning challenge, the population of those dealing with learning challenges, disclosed and non-disclosed, was identified and a population estimate calculated. Student characteristics that predicted non-disclosure and specific information on the nature of students’ diagnoses were made and have the potential to develop targeted institutional support for a population that is currently difficult to access.

Grimes, Susan, Jill Scevak, Erica Southgate, and Rachel Buchanan. 2017. “Non-disclosing students with disabilities or learning challenges: characteristics and size of a hidden population.” The Australian Educational Researcher. 1-17. doi. 10.1007/s13384-017-0242-y