An exploration of the personal journeys of disabled students during the first year of Higher Education (HE)
The transition into the first year of Higher Education (HE) is recognised as a difficult experience for all students. However, it is considered to be even more complex for disabled students (DS) who will often experience additional barriers and may lack the necessary skills to make the transition to HE (NDT, 2004). Despite this, there is limited research exploring the DS’ experiences of transition into HE. Therefore, this research explores the personal journeys of DS during the first year of HE. This longitudinal and in-depth study focused on the lived experiences and perceptions of six self-identified DS throughout the first year of HE. It explored the DS’ perceptions and experiences of the changes, barriers and enablers in order to explore aspects of transition. The DS were interviewed three times during the first year of HE and also kept weblog diaries throughout this year to document important events, experiences and feelings as they occurred. Thematic analysis was conducted. Four key themes emerged during the first year; DS’ experiences of friendships, support, academic experiences and independence. Significantly, the research framework allowed identification of how each key theme progressed throughout this first year and in doing so it recognised that the transition into the first year of HE was a longitudinal process. It took time for DS to become accustomed to the expectations and processes within HE. Uniquely, these findings contributed to a Diagrammatic Representation (DR) which depicts the DS’ personal journeys during the first year of HE. Therefore, it has provided a more complete understanding of DS’ experiences during the transition to HE. These findings can be used for Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to identify positive ways in which they can develop their own practices to support DS more effectively during the transition into the first year.
- School of Education and Social Policy