Barriers to persistence for engineering students with disabilities

Yvette Pearson Weatherton, Renae Danielle Mayes, Carol Villanueva-Perez

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Undergraduate student retention is dependent not only on academic aptitude, but also on nonacademic factors, which include the ability to integrate fully into their academic environments. Non-academic factors are likely to more significantly impact the success of students with disabilities compared to their peers who do not have disabilities, especially within science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, and engineering in particular. These include systemic as well as personal barriers. An institution's culture and climate are among several systemic barriers that exist to impede successful matriculation of students with disabilities, particularly in engineering. Researchers have found engineering and law faculty members "were significantly less willing to provide accommodations" than their counterparts in other academic units. Reluctance and negative attitudes serve to foster environments that are counter to diversity and inclusion. Studies have shown that incorrect estimates of self-efficacy are among personal barriers that hinder student success. Some students with disabilities tend to have lower academic selfefficacy than students without a disability, and those with the highest IQs appear to have the lowest perceptions of academic self-efficacy, perhaps because they are more aware of their weaknesses. Other students with disabilities appear instead to have unrealistically positive beliefs about their own capabilities. In some cases this may result in students not requesting needed accommodations, though this may result from other factors such as fear of stigmas associated with disability as well. In this paper, we present a review of literature pertaining to systemic and personal barriers to success for students with disabilities in engineering. We conclude with a summary of promising practices for overcoming those barriers and needs for additional research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jun 24 2017
Externally publishedYes
Event124th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Columbus, United States
Duration: Jun 25 2017Jun 28 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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