Barriers to social inclusion predict lower basic social need satisfaction among students with disabilities

Mitch Brown, Amanda Blanchard, Donald Sacco


Social exclusion elicits undesirable consequences, including psychological discomfort and thwarting of basic social needs. Exclusion can result from individuals ostracizing others for threatening the group by emitting indicators of disease or physically and psychologically non-normative traits, including disabilities. Given the stigmatization faced by individuals with disabilities, effects of exclusion could be especially pervasive, especially among university students. We sought to determine if university students with disabilities experience disability-related barriers to inclusion and how these barriers reduce basic needs satisfaction among disabled students. Individuals with (and without) qualifying disabilities completed questionnaires assessing barriers to social and academic success and basic needs satisfaction using a cross-sectional design that afforded the opportunity to compare responses from both categories and conduct a mediation analysis. Individuals with disabilities reported greater barriers and reduced needs satisfaction. Importantly, barriers mediated the link between disability status and needs satisfaction, particularly for barriers with less legal consideration and reflective needs. Disability status is a pervasive inhibitor for university students’ well-being. We frame results through evolutionary theory and offer suggestions to improve college experiences for individuals with disabilities.


Disability; Stigma; Exclusion; Basic needs; Evolutionary psychology

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