Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Phillip Johnson

Second Advisor

Dr. Carla Adkinson-Johnson

Third Advisor

Dr. Debra Lindstrom


Higher education, physical disability, counselor education, college student


According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES, 2017a), there are over 19 million students who are currently enrolled in institutions of higher education. For the past 40 years, the number of students with disabilities attending colleges and universities has grown exponentially (NCES, 2017b). There is an abundance of research regarding many aspects of the experience of college students with a physical disability across social science, medical, and education literature; however, research targeted specifically at general counseling practitioners, counselor educators, and college counselors is relatively limited.

The purpose of this investigation was to study the inner lives of a group of undergraduate students with physical disabilities as they pursue degree attainment. More specifically, the investigation sought to understand (a) their general concerns, (b) the types of challenges they face and how they navigate resolving them, and (c) advice they have for faculty, staff, and other students based on their individual experiences.

An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (Harper & Thompson, 2012) was used to analyze in-depth interviews conducted with five participants. Findings revealed three dominant themes. Striving towards independence and self-reliance was central to understanding the experience and meaning making of the participants. Additionally, accessibility to space and all of the accommodations they believed would be helpful proved to be challenging. Lastly, students believed their engagement on campus was central to their overall success.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access