Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Public Policy (PhD)

Degree Level



Political Science


Michael T. Miller

Committee Member

Valerie Hunt

Second Committee Member

Kit Kacirek


ADAAA, COVID-19, Disability Policy, Higher Education, Implementation, Street-level Bureaucracy


The COVID-19 pandemic abruptly transformed the landscape of higher education. The urgent nature of procedural changes in academic and administrative higher education services did not exempt leadership, faculty, or staff from their legally mandated responsibility to provide equal access to the educational environment for students with disabilities as outlined within title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA). The purpose of this study was to explore the strategies used by disability services professionals to implement the ADAAAA during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sources and preferred formats of policy guidance were explored. The priorities of department, division, and institution-level leadership as potential influencing factors of DSP decision-making were also examined. The study applied Lipsky’s theory of street-level bureaucracy to the higher education environment, with a focus on professionals who are responsible for implementing the ADAAA through the provision of academic accommodations for students with disabilities—higher education disability services professionals (DSPs). Street-level bureaucracy proposes that the decisions individuals responsible for the day-to-day actions of policy implementation may create policy that greatly differs from the intent of policy-makers (Lipsky, 2010). In the absence of federal regulations on how to implement the ADAAA in higher education during the COVID-19 pandemic, DSPs must gather resources independently to aid in the creation of best practices to maintain institutional compliance and to ensure that students with disabilities receive access to remote learning and institutional resources.

A 13-question survey instrument was emailed to the target population of disability services professionals who were listed in the membership directory of the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD), resulting in a survey population of 2,204 AHEAD members. A convenience sample of 353 completed survey responses was obtained. Descriptive statistical methods, frequency distribution and cross tabulation were performed to analyze survey data.

The study found that information from AHEAD was highly valued for implementation guidance among DSPs during the COVID-19 pandemic, as indicated by 64.6% of subjects who selected AHEAD community postings, listservs, webinars and virtual conferences as their primary resource (Table 6). Of the ADAAA implementation guidance resources available, DSPs indicated a preference for listservs/community board postings (38.8%). Direct communication with a self-selected peer network of DSPs was also among the most preferred formats of policy guidance (26.9%). DSP’s highest ADAAA implementation priority aligned with their report of department level highest implementation priority across all categories (Carnegie classification, enrollment size, and geographic region). The highest ADAAA implementation priority at the DSP and department levels was providing accommodations during emergency remote learning. DSP’s perception of differing ADAAA implementation priories emerged at the division and institution levels. Division-level ADAAA implementation priorities varied by Carnegie classification and enrollment size. Institution level implementation priorities varied by Carnegie category, enrollment size, and geographic region.