Factors that enable graduate students with visual disabilities to succeed in their educational pursuits

Lisa Louise Galdi, Fordham University


The purpose of the study was to discover the psychological and social factors that enabled graduate students with visual disabilities to succeed in their academic programs. A phenomenological inquiry was undertaken to discover the obstacles that graduate students with visual impairments encountered in higher education and the psychological and social factors that enabled them to surmount such barriers. The researcher obtained participants by telephoning the coordinators of the Disabled Student Service (DSS) at Fordham University, through contacts from organizations for and of the blind, and through "snowballing." Those students who successfully completed one year of graduate study or who had earned their graduate degree in May of 2005 were selected to take part in the study. Research participants signed an informed consent letter and completed a demographic questionnaire prior to their interview. The sample consisted of 15 graduate students from across the United States who were interviewed by telephone to explore their lived experiences pertaining to education using a semi-structured interview protocol. Another set of 15 telephone interviews was conducted with a family member of each student for purposes of triangulation using a semi-structured interview protocol designed for them. Data analysis entailed reading and rereading the transcripts and searching for emergent themes. Three themes were identified: barriers encountered in the education of these graduate students as well as the psychological characteristics and supportive relationships facilitating their success in higher education. Barriers consisted of negative attitudes of professors toward students having visual impairments, inaccessible course materials, and difficulties with transportation. Psychological characteristics enabling graduate students to be successful in their academic programs encompassed altruism, perseverance, resourcefulness, resilience, and goal-orientation. Supportive relationships instrumental in the academic achievement of these students were family members (i.e., parental, sibling, spousal, and daughter) and role models and mentors (i.e., positive relationships with professors and members of organizations of the blind). Implications of the research were discussed in terms of conducting further studies to increase the success of students with visual disabilities in higher education.

Subject Area

Behaviorial sciences|Educational psychology|Special education|Personality|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Galdi, Lisa Louise, "Factors that enable graduate students with visual disabilities to succeed in their educational pursuits" (2007). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3272639.