New Disability Item in 2021

New Disability Item Fosters Inclusion

NSSE staff worked with disability scholars to reimagine a more inclusive demographic item to identify students with disabilities. Given individuals with disabilities are often excluded from DEI conversations, NSSE findings illuminate ways for institutions to better serve this student population. The process for creating the new disability item is detailed below.

Within higher education research, disability is often measured using exclusionary language which perpetuates derogatory or offensive terms based on deficit perceptions (e.g., the word “diagnosed”), examined from the lens of services provided, or lacking in specificity regarding types of disability. Such approaches fail to account for the complexity of this identity and limit further understanding of disabled populations.

Aligned with the critical methodologies component of this Annual Results installment, the new, disaggregated disability item allows students to better categorize themselves and helps them feel more affirmed by their institution by recognizing their specific disability.

Evidence-Based Improvement in Higher Education

Center for Postsecondary Research
Indiana University School of Education
201 N. Rose Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47405-1006
Phone: 812.856.5824
Email: