The avoidance of help-seeking: A study of the experiences of persons with severe visual impairment with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accommodation request process for print access

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling and Human Services


James Bellini


Help-seeking, Visual impairment, Americans with Disabilities Act, Accommodation request, Print access

Subject Categories

Education | Medicine and Health Sciences | Psychology | Rehabilitation and Therapy | Social Psychology | Student Counseling and Personnel Services


The National Institute On Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) called for analysis of the role and potential of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) in increasing job opportunities for persons with disabilities (NIDRR, 1999). The provision of reasonable accommodation is a fundamental aspect of the ADA. Therefore, this qualitative interview study investigated the experiences of people with severe visual impairment who requested alternate formats to print. The researcher and 20 key informants all have severe visual impairment and have experienced problems when requesting access to print per the ADA.

Qualitative content analysis was used to locate the informants' reasons for avoidance of the ADA request process both on-the-job and in employment-related contexts. Interview transcripts were compared to codes derived from a review of the literature on the avoidance of help-seeking. Environmental barriers in the request process such as refusals and faulty accommodations, not barriers due to the individual's impairment, derailed the ADA request process. The greatest barrier, labeled Broken Trust and Betrayal , was created by the inadequate responses of sources designated to help with ADA requests or assumed to be most likely to comply with the law. Other emergent themes of reasons for avoidance were the Multiplicity of Barriers, Fear of Retaliation, Problems with Technology, the Concept of Print (not knowing the uses of print) and Habit . Requesting ADA accommodation was more difficult than using prior means of accessing print or doing without. The goals of an ADA request are not to obtain print access, but to use the print information for some purpose. The ADA request process can impede, rather than enhances progress toward those goals.

This research contributed a detailed view of the process of requesting accommodation. Further, a new population and a new situation were added to the theoretical construct "The avoidance of help-seeking." These findings may help in the development of research-based training material needed to enhance the ADA's effectiveness. This study demonstrates that including the point of view of people with disabilities who could rely on the law is a vital means of measuring the effects and the implementation of the ADA.


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