Objectives 1 and 2
Implement changes within partner postsecondary institutions–University of Washington (UW), Bellevue College (BC), and Seattle Central Community College (SCCC)–to make STEM programs more welcoming and accessible to students with disabilities (e.g., more accessible websites and science labs, STEM publications that encourage the participation of students with disabilities).
Create and expand engagement of stakeholders (STEM educators, disability services, veteran associations, projects that broaden participation in STEM, and industry and career services) to foster STEM education and careers that are welcoming and accessible to people with disabilities. Many efforts occur in meetings and individual encounters that take place during the normal routines of the PI, Co-PI, project staff, and partner representatives. Partners conduct faculty and staff training on universal design (UD), accommodations, and resources and work with project staff to make websites as well as computer and STEM labs more accessible. Recently the project has funded accessible science demonstration kits for displays, meetings, and events at each partner institution to increase awareness of how individuals with disabilities can engage in STEM fields. The project also supports online Communities of Practice (CoPs) for five stakeholder groups:
- STEM educators
- Disability service personnel
- Veterans-serving organizations
- Leaders of projects that serve to broaden participation in STEM
- Industry and career services
Evaluation Thus Far
Data sources include partner Work Group reports, partner/staff interviews, observations of changes (e.g., accessibility of campus websites), CoP and Capacity-Building Institute (CBI) surveys, records of how project activities have addressed these recommendations, and interviews of partners and staff conducted by the external evaluators in 2009 and 2010. At the end of the project, the external evaluator will assess whether engagements are created and expanded to foster changes that make STEM education and careers more welcoming and accessible to people with disabilities.
It was expected that, by the end of the project, at least 200 people would engage in six CoPs; three CBIs would involve at least fifteen students with disabilities and sixty practitioners; and other training and consulting would reach at least 1,500 other individuals (includes 200 people who serve individuals with disabilities; eighty postsecondary students in disability studies, special education, and rehabilitation programs; fifty employers and career services personnel; 600 precollege educators; 500 postsecondary faculty and administrators; and 50 who support veterans with disabilities).
There are 337 members in five CoPs; one all-partner CBI and six partner-specific CBIs engaged twenty-three students and sixty-nine practitioners. More than 3,500 people have engaged in workshops and trainings, STEM exhibits, and presentations. (Specifically, more than 1,300 postsecondary educators and administrators; more than 720 secondary educators and administrators; and more than 600 parents).
Early Outcomes and Evidence of Impact
Proceedings of an all-partners CBI and six partner-focused CBIs are posted online and 80% of the suggestions made at these events have been, at least in part, implemented; they continue to be considered by staff, the Partner Work Group, and the student lead A-Team. Staff and partners continue to collaborate on aspects of their programs that were identified earlier as priorities, including increased accessibility of campus websites as well as science and computer labs, and training of STEM faculty.
Changes in policies and practices that support more inclusive STEM programs and student services have been reported by all partner institutions. Some evidence of systemic changes overall include
- growing buy-in at partner campuses, including the emergence of champions;
- strong and growing partner relationships;
- increased partner involvement and desire for even more engagement;
- continued development of pipelines between partner schools;
- partner leaders appreciate the teleconferences; want more face-to-face; and
- STEM lab facilities designed and retrofitted with accessibility features.
Specific examples of changes made at specific partner schools include the following:
- At the UW, enterprise-wide changes regarding improved accessibility of faculty tools (e.g., Catalyst) and websites, enhancements to IT accessibility website, and increased accessibility of video resources.
- At BC, the emergence of the science dean as a champion and development of a student-led AccessSTEM club.
- At SCCC, establishment of ongoing training for tutors with respect to working with students with disabilities, the establishment of a student veterans organization.
- At Seattle Public Schools a web page devoted to assistive technology and training is institutionalized. Accessibility topics are routinely covered in meetings of career center specialists, math department heads, and science department heads.