The purpose of AccessSTEM is to increase the participation of people with disabilities in STEM careers. Outreach and dissemination efforts extend nationwide.
The lead agency for AccessSTEM is the University of Washington's (UW) award-winning DO-IT Center (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology), which has conducted successful NSF projects continuously since 1992. AccessSTEM works with a leadership team of partners that represent stakeholders including postsecondary institutions, precollege STEM educators, disability services, veteran associations, projects that broaden participation in STEM, and industry and career services.
AccessSTEM builds on established collaborations and brings together practices that have proven successful individually, to create a unique, comprehensive set of interventions. Objectives and examples of interventions include the following:
- AccessSTEM implements changes within postsecondary institutions to make STEM programs more welcoming and accessible to students with disabilities, including veterans.
Interventions: Participants collaborate in Communities of Practice; collect annual data on degrees and majors; and recruit students with disabilities to participate in internships, e-mentoring communities, and other project activities.
- AccessSTEM creates and expands engagement of stakeholders (precollege STEM educators, disability services, veteran associations, projects that broaden participation in STEM, and industry and career services) in fostering STEM education and careers that are welcoming and accessible to people with disabilities
Interventions: Stakeholders conduct Capacity Building Institutes to identify specific needs and interventions and identify and participate in collaborative projects.
- AccessSTEM creates synergistic and lasting relationships among stakeholders to foster systemic changes regarding the inclusiveness of STEM education and careers that are not likely to be made in isolation.
Interventions: Participants co-sponsor Disability Mentoring Day activities, participate in transition workshops and career fairs, and collaborate with a variety of stakeholders to develop strong networks.
- AccessSTEM implements evidence-based practices to increase the numbers of individuals with disabilities moving through critical junctures to STEM careers.
Interventions: Students with disabilities participate in mentoring and peer support communities, job shadows, informational interviews, internships, leadership events, and other best practices that support STEM education and career transitions.
- AccessSTEM supports an online resource center that shares research and promising practices worldwide.
Interventions: Resources such as evidence-based practices, questions and answers, case studies, and other information is compiled in a searchable Knowledge Base; lessons learned and other articles are developed for stakeholder groups; and a project video will be developed to promote the participation of students with disabilities in STEM education and careers.
Each intervention is associated with measurable data that provide evidence of effectiveness.
Ultimately, AccessSTEM will broaden participation in STEM fields and improve those fields with the perspectives and expertise of people with disabilities.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has funded the Alliance for Students with Disabilities in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) since 2002 (award #HRD-0227995 and HRD-0833504). Washington State supports ongoing efforts as part of the DO-IT Center. AccessSTEM joins other projects funded by the Research and Disabilities Education program of the National Science Foundation. Consult the RDE Collaborative Dissemination for resources developed through these efforts.