How has Covid-19 affected mobile tech use by students with disabilities?

Scheduled at 2:15pm in Virtual Room 1 on Wednesday, November 17.



  • Susie Wileman, Research Associate, Scholar in Residence, Dawson College
  • Alice Havel, Research Associate, Scholar in Residence, Dawson College
  • Mary Jorgensen, Research Associate, Adaptech Research Network
  • Catherine Fichten, Co-Director, Faculty, Dawson College, Adaptech Research Network
  • Catherine Gravel, , Adaptech Research Network

Session Details

  • Length of Session: 1-hr
  • Format: Lecture
  • Expertise Level: Beginner
  • Type of session: General Conference


We surveyed 121 students with disabilities and 51 without disabilities and asked them about smartphone and tablet technologies they used to do schoolwork during the COVID-19 pandemic. We also asked a subset of 24 students what technologies their professors asked them to use during the pandemic and what problems they encountered.


Most North American colleges and universities switched to online courses during the COVID-19 pandemic. We believe that the impact of the newly remote courses on the ‘academic lives’ of post-secondary students with disabilities and on technology use by students in general, is of importance to post-secondary faculty and service providers. It is important to ascertain which newly used technologies are likely to be useful in the future, and which ones students with disabilities may need support in learning how to use successfully.

Results showed that over 2/3 of students used some form of mobile technology to do schoolwork. The most common apps used were: Zoom, Google Docs, and Microsoft Word. Overall, most of these worked well, although over 1/3 of both groups indicated that Zoom worked poorly for them and there were problems with Teams. In addition, students reported difficulties uploading assignments, knowing when work was due, and having issues with the technology, etc. Given that post-secondary students have learned how to use a variety of smartphone and tablet apps to complete academic work during the pandemic, they may continue to use many of these once the pandemic is over.

Our findings supported the views of others (e.g., Gillis & Krull, 2020; Schaffhauser 2020; Serhan, 2020; Son et al., 2020), that most students had a difficult time with learning and studying during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that students with disabilities experienced more challenges. As we are likely to see more course offerings of a hybrid nature in the future, we believe that post-secondary faculty are interested in retaining aspects of online teaching once they return to face-to-face instruction (Top Hat, 2020; Lombardi, 2021). This will certainly have an impact on course design, in addition to rethinking how technology use in the classroom is introduced and supported by teachers.


  1. The impact of COVID-19 on students' use of mobile technologies informs policy and suggests areas where more support is needed relating to technology use in class.
  2. The impact of COVID-19 on students' use of mobile technologies can inform their application and engagement in courses.
  3. The sustainability potential of certain mobile technologies and apps is of interest to faculty and service providers.

Disability Areas

All Areas

Topic Areas

Administrative/Campus Policy, Faculty Development & Support, Research, Uncategorized

Speaker Bio(s)

Susie Wileman

Susie Wileman, M.Ed., OPQ, is a recently retired psychologist and service provider of the Student AccessAbility Centre at Dawson College, and a part-time faculty member at Concordia University, Department of Applied Human Sciences. She is a research associate of the Adaptech Research Network, and a Scholar-in-Residence at Dawson College. She is active on a number of committees focused on inclusion, accessibility and services to students with disabilities, currently as a member of Concordia University’s Accessibility Policy Advisory Group.

Alice Havel

Mary Jorgensen

Catherine Fichten

Catherine Gravel