The main purpose of this study was to investigate the disability support service (DSS) office designs at three varying U.S. postsecondary institutions and their relationship to the experiences of students with a learning disability. The three postsecondary institutions represent a community college, a medium sized university and a large research university all-residing in a single bellwether state. Selection of the cases and postsecondary institutions was carefully done in order to investigate a diverse range of institutional environments potentially influencing the design of their disability services. Conducted at three U.S. postsecondary institutions, participants in this study included federal/state officials, disability support service coordinators, faculty members and students with a learning disability. All participation was conducted via online utilizing Skype and an online questionnaire service (Freeonlinesurveys.com). Using DSS coordinators, faculty members and students as primary sources, a triangulation of responses and experiences contributed to the multi-perspective depiction of the three DSS designs. Adopting a multi-frame theoretical framework on organizations, Bolman and Deal’s four-frame model provided the analytical tool from which the three DSS cases were viewed and their actions supported.
The data shows little difference between the three DSS designs at the three postsecondary institutions; instead sharing many similarities between the experiences of DSS coordinators, faculty members and students with a learning disability. Established and culturally accepted on postsecondary campuses over the years as a resource for those seeking information and support for learning disability issues, all three DSS offices have created a similar niche at their respectful institutions. Unanimously regarded as a necessity by postsecondary institutions, coordinators, faculty members and students, the DSS offices are an essential factor in the continuous commitment to provide equal opportunity for students with a learning disability.