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Resident Directors' Understandings of Disability
. . . 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.
access (e.g., Barragan & Nusbaum, 2017; Wood, 2017). Disability studies scholarship
was utilized in considering how the findings of this study might be understood within
a broader context of relevant research and, accordingly, contribute to the ongoing engagement
and development of housing professionals, in the support of their residents.
METHODS
The goal of this study was to contribute to the literature on students with disabilities
in campus housing by exploring resident directors' understandings of disability in
their work. In order to focus on these understandings, resident directors were invited
to speak about experiences or understandings of disability based on their own definitions
of the term. The focus of this exploration was on both the depth and individualized
nature of the RD experiences. For this reason, constructivist grounded theory
was selected (Charmaz, 2014).
The purpose of grounded theory is to inductively generate knowledge up from
the data at hand (Mills et al., 2014), and it is particularly appropriate when little is
known about the topic of study, when explanatory theory is the desired aim of the research,
or when there is a process likely to be explained by the research (Birks & Mills,
2012). The absence of literature on RD understandings of disability, the identification
of the importance of residential processes for students with disabilities (Wilke et al.,
2019), and a desire to contribute insight into how RDs think about disability and how
they work with students with disabilities all supported grounded theory as a strong fit
for this study. Further, constructivist grounded theory operates from the standpoint
" that both data and analyses are social constructions that reflect the conditions of their
production " (Charmaz, 2014, p. 240).
The assumptions of constructivist grounded theory are consistent with my own
research positionality, as well as with disability studies scholarship on the socially constructed
view of disability (Hadley & Archer, 2017; Harbour et al., 2017; Shallish, 2017).
I approached the study with an understanding that my presence in the research had
an influence on the creation of meaning throughout the analytical process. With a
background in student affairs generally, and in campus housing specifically, I have regularly
worked with both RDs and students with disabilities. It was necessary to attend
to this background as I interpreted the data-to be mindful of the ways that my own
prior experiences were impacting my analysis and co-construction of meaning. I also
approached this study as someone who does not presently identify as disabled. Part of
my attempt to ask questions about how systems operate arose from a desire to create
knowledge alongside individuals with disabilities in ways that impact the systems from
which ableist structures arose.
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