Date of Award

June 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Cultural Foundations of Education


Beth A. Myers


Disability studies, Higher education, Inclusive education, Intellectual disability, Qualitative research

Subject Categories



This dissertation chronicles the college experiences of students with intellectual and developmental disability labels enrolled in an inclusive postsecondary program, as told by them. Using student-generated digital photographs as visual supports around which to organize focus group conversations, I employ a participatory, phenomenological methodology to garner and represent the students’ experiences. The study design, and data collection are informed by both feminist and Disability Studies epistemological and theoretical frameworks, while the analysis foregrounds Disability Studies, seeking to privilege and center the voices of a population of students who have been largely left out of scholarship to date. This study lives within a cultural and historical moment where students with intellectual and developmental disability labels are steadily gaining access to postsecondary education spaces via alternative pathway programs, thus necessitating close, consistent investigation of what happens therein. Findings highlight the integral, though not uncomplicated role of the inclusive postsecondary education program structures in facilitating students’ access to and participation in social and academic facets of campus life, friendship dynamics between students with and without disabilities, and the presence of support staff in students’ lives. Additionally, this dissertation foregrounds key methodological questions about how to deliver on the promise of inclusive, participatory inquiry and exposes tensions around issues of informed consent, communication, and support for participants with intellectual and developmental disability labels. This work invites inclusive postsecondary education practitioners, Disability Studies scholars, self-advocates, and their allies to explore the contours and conflicts of intellectual disability identity, affinity, and college membership, challenging us all to honor student experiences while continually bending towards a future we have perhaps not yet imagined.


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