Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Arts in Communication



Major Advisor

Amy Arellano, Ph.D.


Christina Ivey, Ph.D.


John McClellan, Ph.D.


Service Animals (S.As.) are becoming more common throughout the United States and are seen more frequently on college campuses. This study uncovers the lived experiences of S.A. handlers on college campuses nationwide, to further understand the exclusion or inclusion that S.A. handlers experience throughout their everyday life. Utilizing Critical Disability Theory and Organizational Communication lenses through a series of open-ended questions, this study analyzes a handler’s experience with their S.A. Adopting a qualitative lens, I conducted one on one interviews. It filled a need for academia as present research on S.As. typically focuses on quantitative research. I was able to uncover moments where dialogic practices occurred or where dialogue would make a difference. The three main themes that emerged were: 1) Faced Barriers, 2) Need to Educate, 3) Felt Support. Through these themes, I was able to uncover that the real problem that is being faced by S.A. handlers is microaggressions. The goal of this study is to help mitigate the amount of exclusionary practices that S.A. handlers experience on college campuses. I discovered two actions that can be taken: acting as allies against microaggressions and advocating how universities can better train their staff on how to handle interactions with S.As.