Date of Award:
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
This dissertation explores how institutions and faculty members accommodate mental health disability in higher education. More than half of college students experience a mental health disability or related forms of mental distress during their time at college, but effective ways of accommodating such disabilities are not always clear. In this dissertation, I report two research studies where I used a combination of research methods, including interviews and eye-tracking, to understand more about how faculty respond to students who disclose a mental health disability, and to advocate for more inclusive forms of responsiveness. In the interview study, I spoke to students who have a mental health disability to ask them about how they experienced disclosing their disability and receiving classroom accommodations. I also spoke with faculty members who teach writing-intensive courses in order to understand how they perceive the disclosure and accommodation process for students with less-apparent disabilities. For the eye-tracking study, I asked faculty members to wear and eye-tracking headset while reading through several letters of accommodation, which are formal letters that campus disability services offices use to inform instructors of individual students’ disability needs. The eye-tracking helped me to know the parts of these letters most likely to attract instructor attention, and can help us know how to write these types of letters in ways that encourage faculty to respond productively and inclusively to students. All of the research is this dissertation is designed to help researchers and instructors have a stronger sense of the assumptions and practices common to higher education that can make college less accessible to students with mental health disabilities.
Bryson, Rachel Welton, "The Right Mind: Rhetorics of Mental Health Disability and Accommodation in Higher Education" (2023). All Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 8773.
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