Journal of College & University Student Housing Volume 50, No. 2 - 64

Resident Directors' Understandings of Disability
Questions about the potential impact of accommodations on student development
were exclusively related to non-physical disabilities. This is consistent with results
from the literature across disability studies, which has established that there is a broad
social awareness and acceptance of physical disabilities (e.g., Beilke & Yssel, 1999;
Humphrey, 2000; Jensen et al., 2004; Samuels, 2013). Consistent with this research,
RDs appeared to be more willing to question the impacts of accommodations specifically
related to disabilities that were less easily visible.
Multiple RDs also expressed concerns about the potential for varied outcomes in
students' ability to secure accommodations based on individual student access to resources.
The RDs' concerns appeared to be rooted in beliefs that students who had
abundant resources were often more easily able to obtain accommodations. Murphy
explored this disparity.
If you have good social capital, you will navigate systems exceptionally well. And I think
that is the case for disability stuff as well. If you have mom or dad who will call in and yell
enough, or who will go get the documentation . . . you're going to have a much easier
time than someone who does not have that.
Corey described similar frustrations.
I have heard from many students that their biggest barrier when it comes to
accommodations is feeling like they can even access the ability to get the documents
they require. Many of them come from low SES [socioeconomic status] families where
they've had the documentation because it was provided through districts that have really
great and robust systems. But then when they come to college, it's not good enough, and
it's not relevant enough or new enough. . . . You're telling them they need to find an
off-campus provider, and more often than not they don't have a car. . . . So I think a lot
of our students just get really discouraged.
In these examples, the RDs problematized documentation requirements by raising
questions about the impacts that they have on students, particularly those with limited
resources.
Finally, the RDs appeared to have a heightened concern about the impact of documentation
requirements, particularly when related to accommodations that were
scarce. For example, none of the RDs were concerned about a student's ability to be
approved for an emotional support animal based on whether other students had, or
needed, the same accommodation. However, certain accommodations-particularly
those that involved the physical characteristics of the residential buildings-were
understood to be complicated by the availability of resources. When discussing this
resource challenge, the RDs expressed optimism that over time their residential buildings
would be renovated or rebuilt in ways that incorporated principles of universal
Expressions of frustration emerged from RDs' inability to
provide accommodations based on students' self-reported needs.
Volume 50, No. 2 * 2024 61

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