Amanda Bell

Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department or School

Teacher Education

Committee Member

Joe Bishop, Ph.D., Chair

Committee Member

Valerie Polakow, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Phil Smith, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Eboni Zamani-Gallaher, Ph.D.


This study sought to contribute to the growing awareness surrounding the barriers, challenges, and needs of LGBTQ persons with disabilities at the collegiate level. The purpose of this research was to capture the lived experiences of LGBTQ persons with disabilities who were enrolled at postsecondary institutions throughout the United States. Currently, only a few studies have focused on these experiences. This critical qualitative study explored the experiences of LGBTQ persons with disabilities in higher education, specifically how their intersectional identities influenced their postsecondary experiences. The experiences of participants emphasized the roles that other people had in both their LGBTQ disabled identity development and their collegiate experience. To understand the role that others played in these experiences, the guiding theoretical perspectives for this study focused on the development of identity and/or self through social interaction. These experiences were explored through the frameworks of George Herbert Mead, Herbert Blumer and Erving Goffman.

A critical qualitative approach was adopted for this study because this methodology supported the exploration of the systemic barriers that exist for LGBTQ persons with disabilities in higher education, while advocating for transformative change that supports the access and rights of this population. A combination of face-to-face interviews and observation were adopted to learn about participant’s experiences in higher education; however, because of confidentiality concerns, it was difficult to gain access to both LGBTQ and/or disabled activities.

The findings from this study underline the current postsecondary climate for LGBTQ students with disabilities and how it impacts their experiences in higher education. Each participant’s experience was unique, yet many shared experiences that emerged from the narratives emphasize the role the others play in both the identity formation and disclosure of LGBTQ collegians with disabilities. Participants also spoke about the nature of their interactions with peers, university staff, administrators, and faculty about their identities. Several implications and recommendations emerged from the findings of this study. The experiences of participants emphasized the importance creating an inclusive campus environment through the establishment of safe spaces. As well as the implementation of policies, practices, and services that acknowledge the diverse make-up of all students, including LGBTQ collegians with disabilities. Specifically, the experiences of participants in this study stresses the significance that others play in the lives of students, and how proactive steps like faculty workshops can help facilitate inclusive pedagogical practices.