A Snapshot of the Experiences of Graduate Students with Disabilities who identify as Aboriginal

Ottawa, October 23, 2018


As part of the “Landscape of Accessibility and Accommodation for Post-Secondary Students With Disabilities in Canada” national study, the National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS) has conducted a detailed analysis of the 2016  Canadian Graduate and Professional Student Survey  (CGPSS) to examine the experiences of 2,324 graduate students who identify as having a disability. We previously released reports in which we compared graduate students with and without disabilities, part-time/full-time graduate students with disabilities, and STEM/Non-STEM students with disabilities. We are pleased to now share the next report in this series where we compare look at the students with disabilities who identified as Aboriginal.

The analyses and report for this work were completed by  Kathleen Clarke , a Research Associate at NEADS. She offered the following comment:

“There has been increasing discussion of how students have multiple characteristics or identities that shape their experiences in the postsecondary environment. This work addresses yet another perspective to reflect on when considering how to support graduate student success.”

Some of the findings from this work include:

  • Of the 2,327 participants who identified as having a disability, 189 self-identified as Aboriginal. This equates to 8% of the sample of students with disabilities.

  • Most of the sample (71%) were in a master’s program.

  • 68% of the sample rated institutional efforts to accommodate their disability as Excellent/Good/Fair.

  • ‘If you were to start your graduate/professional career again, would you select the same field of study?’ was rated very favourably, with 83% of respondents indicating they Definitely/Probably would.

  • ‘The intellectual quality of fellow students’ was rated very favourably, with 91% of the sample responding with Excellent/Very Good/Good.

  • Advice on the availability of financial support: 42% of the sample rated this item as ‘Fair’ or ‘Poor’

  • Opportunities to take coursework outside my department: 39% of the sample rated this item as ‘Fair’ or ‘Poor’

  • Top 5 sources of financial support: (1) Loans, savings, or family assistance (48%); (2) Graduate teaching assistantship (35%); (3) University-funded bursary (33%); (4) Graduate research assistantship (24%); (5) Full tuition scholarships or waivers (16%)

  • In comparing amount of debt at each level of education, while 42% of students said they have no debt after undergraduate education, this amount drops to 32% at the graduate level. So, graduate school resulted in at least some debt for a number of students who didn’t have debt at the undergraduate level.

  • While 73% of the sample said that ‘seminars/colloquia at which students present their research’ occurred in their department, the responses were closer to 50% for ‘departmental funding for students to attend national/regional meetings’ and ‘attend national scholarly meetings.’

  • In terms of co-authoring in journals with faculty, 44% (n = 50) of respondents indicated this occurred, while 40% (n = 45) indicated publishing as a sole/first author occurred.

  • The greatest obstacle for students (based on percentages for ‘a major obstacle’) was ‘work/financial commitments.’

The full report with the detailed findings can be found at the bottom of this press release in Word and PDF formats.

NEADS would like to thank the  Canadian Association of Graduate Studies  (CAGS) for organizing this survey and for also granting us access to the data for our analyses. Additionally, we gratefully acknowledge grant funding support for this research from the Social Development Partnerships Program, Employment and Social Development Canada, the Ontario Human Capital Research and Innovation Fund, Government of Ontario and the Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counselling, Counselling Foundation of Canada.

For further information about this research contact our national office:

National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS) Rm. 514 Unicentre, Carleton University Ottawa, Ontario, K1S 5B6

Download and read the report here in Word and PDF formats: