Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Studies

First Advisor

Dr. James McMillan


Qualitative interviews of college students with disabilities indicated that students were reporting significant discrimination and disability stigma effects. Until recently, however, no formal instruments had been developed specifically to measure disability stigma in college students. The purpose of this study was to develop the Postsecondary Student Survey of Disability-Related Stigma (SSDRS), a Likert-type scale that measured amount of perceived stigma in college students with disabilities. The SSDRS was patterned after similar instruments developed to measure race-related stigma and other forms of perceived social discrimination, and was designed to be administered through disability support service offices. The SSDRS consisted of five subscales: personal feelings, global events, academics, group identity, and personal relationships. The questionnaire was pilot tested at two schools, a small, private liberal arts college and a medium-sized, urban community college (n=85). A preliminary exploratory factor analysis and reliability analysis suggested minor changes to the instrument. The pilot results also provided justification for further sampling and more formal analysis of the instrument with a larger data set. The scale was then administered to students with disabilities at a large urban research university. The results were similar to those from the pilot.After aggregating the data (N = 121), another exploratory factor analysis was conducted to identify the underlying structures measured by the instrument. The five subscales suggested by the literature were confirmed, and subscale reliability of scores improved. Analysis of the aggregate data also suggested the removal of several items that did not appear to function well in the instrument.The results of the study suggested that disability stigma is a significant issue for college students with disabilities. Disability support personnel at the postsecondary level could use an instrument like the SSDRS for benchmarking, analyzing the disability climate on campus, or designing specific student interventions. The results also suggested that the phenomenon of disability stigma is measurable, and worthy of future study.


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Date of Submission

June 2008

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