Access and equity for students with disabilities in Colombian higher education


  • Adalia Vidarte Los Angeles Unified School District
  • Juanita Reina Zambrano UNIMINUTO
  • Allison Mattheis California State University Los Angeles



higher education, critical disability studies, inclusive education


Efforts to increase access to higher education in Colombia have resulted in increased enrollment across the country and an expansion of the postsecondary education sector. National legislation such as the 1994 Ley 115 guarantees individuals with disabilities the right to an inclusive public education, and in 2011, Colombia also adopted and ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Many sociopolitical and pedagogical obstacles remain, however, that make it difficult for students with disabilities to access higher education. In Colombia, only 1.7% of students with disabilities graduate from a university setting (Fundación Saldarriaga-Concha, 2018). This article draws from data collected for a larger mixed methods study exploring the influence of different social identities on students' experiences at a private university system in Colombia; here we focus specifically on the experiences of students with disabilities. We were guided by critical disabilities studies in education (DSE) as a theoretical framework for conceptualizing disability in educational settings and explored how the experiences of dis/abled students at Dosantos University reflect institutional policy commitments. Data from first-person narratives illustrate that students with disabilities face discrimination inside educational spaces that reflect broader limited societal understandings of dis/ability, but that students still persisted. Participants documented the strategies they use to successfully access postsecondary opportunity, and an analysis of their experiences illuminates ways that universities can reduce obstacles in this process.


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Author Biographies

Adalia Vidarte, Los Angeles Unified School District

Ms. Vidarte is a special education teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District. She earned her graduate and undergraduate degrees in Education from California State University, Los Angeles. In 2017, Ms. Vidarte was recognized by the City of Los Angeles for promoting career development for students and job-seekers with disabilities through job shadowing and hands-on career exploration. Her research interests include making educational spaces accessible and equitable for individuals with disabilities and community stakeholders.

Juanita Reina Zambrano, UNIMINUTO

Dr. Reina is a special educator certified by the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional in Colombia and holds a master’s in higher education with an emphasis in teaching and research from Universidad de la Habana in Cuba. She earned a Ph.D. in Education Sciences from the Universität Siegen in Germany. Her research focuses on the implementation of seminars and projects on difference, inclusion, and diversity, social innovation in education, teacher training, curriculum, and higher education.

Allison Mattheis, California State University Los Angeles

Allison Mattheis is a career educator who has worked and learned with students from middle school to the doctoral level. She is committed to collaborative research that explores how educational policy can promote or hinder educational equity and justice, and how sociopolitical contexts impact the work of teachers and students in formal and informal learning spaces.




How to Cite

Vidarte, A., Reina Zambrano, J., & Mattheis, A. (2022). Access and equity for students with disabilities in Colombian higher education. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 30, (61).



Student Experience in Latin American Higher Education