Report: Self-Advocacy Skills and Self-Determination Key for Students with Disabilities


All students participating in postsecondary education need effective self-advocacy and self-determination. However, it is even more essential for those with disabilities for obtain and utilize these skills.

According to a new brief from the National Center for Learning Disabilities, self-advocacy skills “include a person understanding themselves, their rights, and their needs, and communicating that understanding—leading to self-determination. Self-determination is a dispositional characteristic that enables a person to act in service of freely chosen goals and make or cause things to happen in their own life.”

Students with disabilities often face the dual challenge of finding a campus that can accommodate their day-to-day needs while providing them with the learning opportunities that can maximize their career potential. Realizing this potential can be difficult if they lack the self-advocacy skills to pursue career paths that they perceive to be unattainable. In other cases, the learning environment can limit students with disabilities as their need for accommodations can be misperceived as a lack of ability rather than a logistical problem.

Faculty at these institutions can improve their teaching practices by fostering an inclusive environment that embraces the differences in learning processes amongst all students, according to the brief.

Some students are visual learners, some are more text-based, while others may have needs that are not easily visible. Research-based learning techniques, such as principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), can help faculty reach all of their students while maintaining high standards.

Ultimately, by recognizing the differences among individuals and willingly providing necessary accommodations, faculty can create educational opportunities for their students that could have gone unrealized.

Read the full brief and check out our webinar on empowering students with learning disabilities.

Gustavo Lara is NACAC’s project coordinator of educational content and policy. You can reach him at

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