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Faculty Attitudes and Practices Regarding Students with Disabilities: Two Decades After Implementati... - page 2 / 67





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When the "barriers" were removed for students with orthopedic, visual, and hearing impairments, those with "hidden" disabilities (e.g., learning disabilities, chronic illness) also benefited.

As a result of the removal of the barriers, a dramatic increase in the number of students with disabilities in higher education in the 1980s was noted (Brinckerhoff, Shaw, & McGuire, 1993; Vogel & Adelman, 1993). According to the Higher Education and Adult Training for People with Handicaps (HEATH) Resource Center of the American Council on Education (ACE), the proportion of first-time, full-time freshmen with disabilities attending college increased fourfold between 1978 and 1994, from 2.6% to 9.2% (Henderson, 1995). The breakdown in 1994 indicated that among freshmen 32.2% reported having learning disabilities, 21.9% visual impairments, 9.7% hearing impairments, 10.2% orthopedic impairments, and 16.4% health impairments. The most noticeable increase, from 15.3% in 1988 to 32.2% in 1994, was reported for students with learning disabilities.

The achievement of students with disabilities in higher education has only recently been reported in the literature (Vogel & Adelman, 1990); however, several experts have noted that their achievement is influenced by faculty attitude and the willingness to provide accommodations for students with disabilities (Baggett, 1994; Fonosch & Schwab, 1981; Moore, Newlon, & Nye, 1986). The following is a three-part definition of attitudes proposed by Triandis, Adamopoulos, and Brinberg (1984) "an attitude is an idea (cognitive component) charged with emotion (affective component) which predisposes a class of actions (behavioral component) to a particular class of social situations" (p. 21). Several studies on faculty attitudes and awareness of the needs of students with disabilities and of their experience and willingness to provide needed instructional accommodations have been reported in the literature. While one study reported negative views of college faculty toward students with disabilities (Minner & Prater, 1984), most studies reported that faculty expressed positive attitudes toward the students' integration into the normal classroom environment (Aksamit, Morris, & Leuenberger, 1987; Fonosch & Schwab, 1981, Leyser, 1989; Satcher, 1992). Moore, Newlon, and Nye (1986) reported contradictory findings in a survey of students with visual, hearing, and orthopedic impairments. They found that respondents in all groups, particularly students with visual and hearing impairments, noted some lack of faculty awareness of their needs.

Researchers who explored faculty attitudes and willingness to make accommodations found that attitudes were related to a number of selected demographic variables. These included (a) gender (i.e., female faculty expressed more positive attitudes toward individuals with disabilities than male faculty members) (Aksamit et al., 1987; Baggett, 1994; Fonosch & Schwab, 1981); (b) information (i.e., faculty with more information about disabilities had more positive attitudes than those with less information) (Aksamit et al., 1987) and (c) academic field (i.e., faculty in education were found to have more positive attitudes toward individuals with disabilities than faculty in business and in social sciences) (Fonosch & Schwab, 198 1). Nelson et al. (1990) reported that College of Education faculty responded more favorably to making accommodations for students with learning disabilities than did faculty in the Colleges of Business and Arts and Sciences. Finally, experience had an impact on attitude and accommodations (namely,

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