Date of Graduation


Document Type

UAF Access Only - Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

Degree Level



Health, Human Performance and Recreation


Smith, Tom

Committee Member/Reader

Jordan, Lorien


Introduction. There is an immense lack of research on college-aged individuals with cognitive and intellectual disabilities using photovoice as the main research method, which calls for up-to-date data collection. Photovoice is a participatory action research (PAR) framework that allows the point of view of the participants, or coresearchers, to be seen and better understood by the greater community through the use of photographs (Schleien, 2013). This type of research is valuable because this specific demographic is vastly underrepresented in the literature and within the community, which leaves their voices unheard and often ignored in decisions that affect their lives. This research will encourage coresearchers to go out into the community and take photos of their experiences at a traditional four-year university from their perspective. Purpose. The purpose of this research is to gain valuable insight into the point of view of students with cognitive and intellectual disabilities from photographs and corresponding captions of some facilitators and barriers to their college experience and use this knowledge to inform the community, as well as other universities, of the importance of such inclusion programs. Methodology. This project was conducted over three months, including an initial recruiting meeting, a Demographic Interview, four weeks allotted to take photos, a focus group meeting to discuss the photos and accompanying captions to identify common themes, and an Exit Interview. This data was analyzed to identify barriers and facilitators to daily life for young adults attending college through the EMPOWER program, a four-year non-degree program at the University of Arkansas for individuals with mild intellectual disabilities. EMPOWER stands for Educate, Motivate, Prepare, Opportunity, Workplace readiness, Employment, and Responsibility. Results. Three themes were established from the photos taken and captions written by the coresearchers: a sense of community, mobility, and resource accessibility. Two photos (one barrier and one facilitator) were selected that all coresearchers identified with. Conclusion. It was concluded that the most valuable theme to the coresearchers was a sense of community. Within that theme, the greatest facilitator of this strong sense of community was the EMPOWER program itself and the supports it offered, including peer mentors. The greatest barrier affecting the lives of the coresearchers and their sense of community was COVID-19.


photovoice, photographs, college, intellectual and cognitive disabilities