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Persons With Disabilities

Scholastic Aptitude Test
Characteristics of American First-Year Students

Scholastic Aptitude Test Up arrow

High school seniors reporting a disabling condition tended to score lower on the SAT than did seniors who reported having no disabilities. (See figure 3-7 and appendix table 3-12.) In mathematics, the average score for students with disabilities was 434, compared with 482 for other students. On the verbal exam, the students with disabilities' average score was 392, compared with 427 for students who reported having no disabling condition.

Figure 3-7

Characteristics of American First-Year Students Up arrow

The percentage of full-time first-year students who report having disabilities increased from 7 percent in 1985 to 9 percent in 1991. (See appendix table 3-13.) Most of this increase occurred in a single category of disability: "learning disabilities." The percentage of students in this category doubled, from 1.2 percent of first-year students in 1985 to 2.2 percent in 1991. The percentages of students with other disabilities stayed relatively constant. In 1991, the two categories of disability most frequently cited were learning disabilities and partial sight or blindness. (See appendix table 3-14.)
There were more similarities than differences in the personal and family characteristics of students with and without disabilities, according to a 1991 survey by the American Council on Education of college first-year students with disabilities (Henderson 1992, p. 6). About 16 percent of both students with and without disabilities were minorities. The education level of the parents was similar for both groups, as were the careers of their parents.
But there were also some important differences. Students reporting disabilities were more likely (52 percent versus 46 percent) than other students to be male and to come from lower-income families. Twenty-one percent of the families of students with disabilities earned less than $20,000 in 1991, compared with only 17 percent of other students' families.
The high school experiences of first-year students with and without disabilities also differed in several ways that are important to their representation in science and engineering. A higher percentage of first-year students with disabilities reported having special tutoring or remedial work in high school. (See figure 3-8.) For example, 17 percent of first-year students with disabilities reported having special tutoring or remedial work in mathematics in high school, compared with 11 percent of other students.

Figure 3-8

First-year students with disabilities were also more likely than other students to anticipate that they will need special tutoring or other remedial work. (See appendix table 3-16.) In 1991, 38 percent of students with disabilities anticipated needing help in mathematics, while only 28 percent of other students did. Eighteen percent of students with disabilities anticipated needing help in science, versus only 11 percent of other students.

Institutional Services

Colleges and universities differ in the range of services they provide to students with disabilities. Almost two-thirds of the higher education institutions (3,375 out of 5,233) offer access for students whose mobility is impaired. (See appendix table 3-17.) Public institutions are far more likely to offer access than private institutions; over 90 percent of both 4-year and 2-year public institutions reported accessibility for the mobility impaired. Other specialized services are not as generally available. For example, about 35 percent of all institutions offer assistance to the visually impaired or the hearing impaired.
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