Document Type



Doctor of Education (EdD)


Adult Education and Human Resource Development

First Advisor's Name

Charles Divita, Jr.

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Janice Sandiford

Third Advisor's Name

Thomas Johnson

Date of Defense



This study was a qualitative investigation, with demographic quantitative features, of post-secondary educational access and legal guidelines for individuals with psychological disabilities. Although disability laws have positively influenced post-secondary educational attitudes and practices relative to accommodating many individuals with disabilities, prevailing stigmas regarding mental illness have discouraged the equal access to higher education for individuals with psychological disabilities. Little research concentrating on this area was found.

Thirty-six relevant legal case decisions, focusing on a variety of realms of higher education, were scrutinized. The policies, procedures, and practices of six Southeastern United States universities were analyzed through official documents and participant responses from disability service providers and other university employees. Comparisons were made between legal cases, and within and between universities. Case findings also provided standards through which participating university practices could be studied.

The legal analysis revealed that most institutions did not discriminate against individuals with psychological disabilities. Practices of a few of these institutions, however, suggested non-compliance despite favorable decisions on their behalf. Institutions found to have discriminatory practices were cited for inadequate procedures, or for presumptive assessments of the educational functioning levels of individuals with psychological disabilities.

Participant university practices generally suggested disability law compliance; however, certain campus interventions were determined to be ineffective in identifying, addressing, and communicating about the educational needs of individuals with psychological disabilities. The most effective services for these individuals, who were described as rapidly increasing in number but lagging in self-advocacy and acceptance by others, went beyond legal requirements.

Recommendations were made for institutional practices concerning disability-related documentation, written standards and operations, and student identification and referral. Directions for future research focused on study skills training for students; exposure of mental health professionals to client educational needs; and expansion of the current research, on a nationwide collegiate level, and a parallel analysis focusing on business and industry.




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