Bias in education disability accommodations

James N. Druckman*, Jeremy Levy, Natalie Sands

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


For students with disabilities, educational success often depends on accommodations. We study accommodation decision-making by implementing a large-scale survey experiment with staff who work in disability services at U.S. colleges. We find evidence of disability specific bias – against those with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as opposed to a vision impairment. This bias appears in respondents’ attitudes toward students and their expectations about which students will receive accommodations. We offer evidence that perceptions of work ethic underlie the disability bias. Our exploration into racial bias arrives at a nuanced picture – we find evidence of racial bias, but it is concentrated only among staff who report not having taken a racial bias training course. This could reflect an impact of such courses or differences between those who do and do not choose to take a course. We conclude with a discussion of possible steps to minimize bias and move towards a more equitable allocation of disability services.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102176
JournalEconomics of Education Review
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Disability bias
  • Disability services
  • Higher education
  • Race bias training
  • Racial bias

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Economics and Econometrics


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