“Disabled or Not, People Just Want to Feel Welcome”: Stories of Belonging from College Students with Intellectual Disability


  • Laura T Eisenman University of Delaware
  • Rosalie Rolon-Dow University of Delaware
  • Brian Freedman University of Delaware
  • April Davison University of Delaware
  • Nefetaria Yates University of Delaware




disability studies, ableism, microaggressions, microaffirmations, storytelling, higher education


As part of a larger storytelling project with college students belonging to minoritized social groups, nine young adults from an inclusive college program for students with intellectual disability (ID) participated in narrative interviews. All were invited to tell stories about campus incidents of microaggression and microaffirmation related to their disability. They also were invited to tell stories about other social identities they claimed. Stories were analyzed thematically and for correspondence with findings from previous studies involving other social identity groups. Students told a variety of stories about interpersonal incidents on campus that made them feel respected or disrespected. They also shared stories of institutional encounters that influenced their sense of acceptance at the university. Although they told more stories about microaffirmations, they were not immune to microaggressions. However, many of the students’ microaffirmation stories placed importance on not being perceived as different rather than a clear affirmation of disability identity. Students’ stories have implications for fostering a campus climate where students with ID are respected and included and where ableism is addressed in substantial ways.