(Blackstone, 1989b; Mathy, 1996). Though there were 7 participants, only 5 used e-mail in college. Four of 5 participants who reported using e-mail did so to correspond with friends, and to converse about academic topics (one participant who used e-mail declined to answer the content of the messages communicated through e-mail). They accessed e-mail without outside assistance. Table 6 provides information on participants' use of electronic mail.
Although e-mail was available on all campuses where the participants attended college, 2 participants stated that they did not use e-mail. Of the two, one preferred not to use e-mail while the other was upgrading a dedicated communication device to access electronic mail. All 5 participants who used e-mail rated the ability of others to understand their e-mail messages as "very easy." For no other rating (face-to-face, written, or telephone) did all participants select the highest rating option of effectiveness. Hence, it appears that the participants who used e-mail considered this the most effective way of having their messages understood.
E-mail provides a unique opportunity for students with disabilities to communicate in an environment where rate of communication does not matter. A message prepared off-line can then be downloaded to the computer. Though e-mail should not substitute for all types of communication, e-mail communication may have special applications for students with severe disabilities (MacKinnon, King, Cathers, & Scott, 1996).
Summary and Future Research Directions
This study provides some initial information on the communication demands of 4-year colleges as reported by 7 persons who have severe physical disabilities, use AAC, and attend college in Pennsylvania. Given the size and geographic concentration of the sample, care should be taken in generalizing these findings to other types of postsecondary settings, other regions, or other disability groups.
Further, participants were asked to report on past experiences. Attempts were made in the structuring of the questionnaire to facilitate recall. However, recalled information about the past can be less reliable or complete than questions about the present (Ericsson & Simon, 1993). Likewise, data were based on self-report. Although it was valuable to learn directly from the participants, it is important for readers to remember the underlying assumption that the self-reports were accurate when interpreting the data.
Even though some implications may be made from the current data, no strong conclusions may be reached about critical variables that contribute to successful communication for persons using AAC in college. Future research could include (a) investigation of the college experiences from others' perspectives (e.g., other segments of the AAC population who are in college [e.g., persons who experienced spinal cord injuries, head injuries, strokes] service providers, faculty, family members); (b) investigation of the participation of persons who use AAC mother postsecondary settings (e.g., community colleges, vocational schools); (c) longitudinal evaluation of the affects of providing AAC-specific services to students; (d) investigation of the participation in postsecondary educational settings from a national perspective; and (e)