Date of Conferral
Heather K. Pederson
Over one tenth of students in postsecondary education have a documented disability as defined by the Americans with Disability Act. However, faculty and course designers often lack understanding of these students' experiences, which leads to insufficient accommodations. The purpose of this basic qualitative study was to explore the experiences of students with physical disabilities (SWD) in online courses. The research was grounded in self-determination theory, which posits 3 basic needs for self-actualization: autonomy, competence, and relatedness. This theory in combination with universal design for learning provided a lens for exploring these experiences. Data collection included 8 interviews with postsecondary students with a physical disability. Data were coded using a combination of value codes and organized thematically. Major findings showed that SWD experience barriers in self-regulation, minimizing of their disabilities, pressure to overachieve, specific knowledge of available resources, isolation, and miscommunication. However, through proper online learning, SWD experience benefits in self-regulation, self-pacing, an increasing sense of confidence and pride, stamina, connection to peers, positive discussions, and advocacy for themselves and others. This research has implications for social change as an evidentiary tool for advocacy when exploring the benefits of taking online courses for SWD and as an awareness tool for teachers and other stakeholders in online education who wish to adapt to best practices.