Study on the Postsecondary Education Experience of Persons with Disabilities in Canada

Status: Completed Projects
Year: 2012
This Project was completed in 2012

The Adaptech Research Network completed a research study called Study on the Postsecondary Education Experience of Persons with Disabilities in Canada. The study was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and was carried out by researchers at Dawson College and McGill University. The purpose of this study was to identify environmental, financial, personal and other factors that help or pose barriers to students with visible and non-visible disabilities pursuing a college or university education in Canada. We were also interested in the transition to employment.

We examined aspects of the experiences of postsecondary students with various disabilities that facilitate higher grades and stronger intention to graduate. Specifically, we focused on experiences that could be modified by the student, the community, or the school. Self-reports of 611 junior/community college and university students with various disabilities show that the best predictors of intention to graduate were the absence of social alienation on campus, strong course self-efficacy, and school environment related facilitators (e.g., good schedule, positive attitudes of professors) as well as personal situation facilitators, such as having friends and high levels of personal motivation. In addition, students registered for campus disability- related services were more likely to intend to graduate as were full-time students. Intention to graduate and grades were only weakly related. Grades were best predicted by course self-efficacy. Stronger social self-efficacy and more personal situation and school environment related facilitators were also related to better grades. Results also show that junior/community colleges are more “friendly” to students with disabilities than are universities (i.e., students feel less alienated and experience more school environment related facilitators).

We also examined the employment realities of recent junior / community college and university graduates and premature leavers (i.e., those who drop out before completing their program of study) with disabilities. Results indicate that among participants in the labour force (i.e., employed or looking for work), 70% of graduates were employed. Premature leavers, on the other hand, were considerably less likely to be employed (52%). Moreover, a larger proportion of premature leavers than of graduates were not participating in the labour force, mainly due to their health or disability. Such a discrepancy between the employment rates of graduates and premature leavers suggests that these two groups need to be considered separately in future research. Moreover, it should be noted that the employment rate of graduates in our sample does not approach the employment rates of non-disabled junior/community college and university graduates, which has been reported to vary between 87% and 96%. Thus, there is still much to be done to assist well-educated youth with disabilities to find employment. Graduation with a junior/community college diploma, a Bachelor’s degree, and a graduate degree resulted in similar employment rates. While age, gender, and grades were also unrelated to whether or not participants were employed or not, field of study was linked to the likelihood of employment.