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Resident Directors' Understandings of Disability
disabilities in campus housing was that their experiences are not universal (Gelbar
et al., 2015; Madriaga, 2010; Stumbo et al., 2010; Wilke et al., 2019). Studies of the
campus experiences of students with autism spectrum disorders (Gelbar et al., 2015;
Madriaga, 2010) revealed that the same aspect of the housing experience was supportive
for some, while difficult for others. A recent study on the perspectives of college
students with disabilities (Wilke et al., 2019) corroborated the notion that these
experiences are highly individualized, arguing that student recommendations for increased
flexibility were related to institutional policies that lack the individualization
to allow students to be treated as the experts on their own lived experiences. The
fact that students with disabilities recognized the benefits and challenges of campus
housing reinforces the reality that these students do not all have the same experience
in higher education.
Disability accommodations are crucial to the residential experience, as noted
in multiple studies (Kurth & Mellard, 2006; Vaccaro & Kimball, 2019; Wilke et al.,
2019). Kurth and Mellard (2006) revealed that students identified the lack of accessible
housing as a factor impacting their ability to participate fully in campus activities,
thus limiting their participation and academic engagement. The physical accessibility
of campus housing also appeared as an important issue in interviews conducted by
Wilke and colleagues (2019), who noted that only eight of 24 participants reported
utilizing accommodations; the others felt that they lacked knowledge about accommodations,
felt that accommodations were not available, and were concerned about
the social impact of accommodations.
A focus on disability accommodations also appeared in research on staff perspectives
of disability. Vaccaro and Kimball (2019) revealed that staff articulated tensions
related to the provision of accommodations and noted that participants reported conflicting
challenges in working with students with disabilities: being simultaneously required
to account for both the needs of individual students and the needs of the larger
community with respect to students' desire for accommodations such as emotional
support animals and single rooms, as well as their ability to navigate interpersonal
conflicts. When considered alongside the study by Wilke and colleagues (2019), it appears
that both students and staff struggle with the complexity of residential accommodations
and the social implications for the decisions they must make with respect
to providing them.
DISABILITY STUDIES FRAMEWORK
The present study utilized disability studies research to interpret the findings and connect
them to tangible implications for housing professionals in higher education. This
research has established the historical dominance of the medical model of disability in
higher education (e.g., Lewis, 2017), the intersection of disability with other forms of
marginalization (e.g., Annamma et al., 2018; Harbour et al., 2017; Hernández-Saca et
al., 2018; Pearson & Samura, 2017), and histories of stigma, oppression, and campus
54 The Journal of College and University Student Housing

Journal of College & University Student Housing Volume 50, No. 2

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