Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

MS Human Genetics


Human Genetics Graduate Program


Disability and how it is perceived and discussed has deep relevance to the practice of genetic counseling. Disability communities have expressed concerns with genetic counseling and the dissemination of misinformation surrounding disability, leading to discrimination and intolerance of diversity (Parens & Asch, 2003). In 2015, the Joan H. Marks Graduate Program in Human Genetics (JHMGPHG) at Sarah Lawrence College implemented coursework and internships for students in order to address these concerns under the educational intervention titled Disability Service Learning (DSL). This study aims to determine what impact this educational intervention has on the Sarah Lawrence genetic counseling students’ attitudes and comfort level towards individuals with disabilities. Biases toward and comfort with individuals with disabilities can be assessed through the Attitudes to Disability Scale (ADS) (Power et al., 2010) and Interaction with Disabled Persons Scale (IDPS) (Gething & Wheeler, 1992). These scales, along with a short questionnaire designed to determine the students’ level of knowledge and comfort with individuals with disabilities, were administered on the first and last day of the course to SLC students as well as in September and December of 2018 to students in other genetic counseling training programs. Analysis of students’ surveys showed that students who received the educational intervention experienced a significantly higher increase in comfort level with disabilities, and students who began DSL with little knowledge and comfort with disability showed the most increase in comfort level. Attitudes toward disability did not show a significant change as a result of DSL, warranting further study and honing of the educational intervention.