AccessERC Capacity Building Institute

Scott Bellman, DO-IT Program Manager
AccessERC CBI Attendees.

On January 24-26, AccessERC hosted its second capacity building institute, titled Increasing the Participation of People with Disabilities in Engineering Research Centers (ERCs).

Members of ERCs from across the nation participated to learn more about including students with disabilities in their centers. Participants learned about best practices for including people with disabilities, such as

  • recruiting individuals with disabilities,
  • applying universal design principles,
  • providing accommodations for engineering activities,
  • understanding disability culture and disability rights, and
  • making sure that information technology and websites are accessible.

Participants visited an engineering lab where they learned how to evaluate accessibility using the DO-IT publication “Checklist for Making Engineering Labs Accessible to Students with Disabilities”.

Participants stand around a robotics display to discuss accessibility in practice.

The participants continue conversations online, in the AccessERC community of practice, where they talk about increasing the engagement of people with disabilities in ERCs.

The National Science Foundation funds ERCs, where postsecondary researchers and industry collaborate on complex engineered systems and technologies that could spawn whole new industries or radically transform existing ones. AccessERC is a collaboration between DO-IT and an ERC at the University of Washington called the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering (CSNE). Dr. Rajesh Rao, CSNE Principal Investigator, shares “ERCs are designed to have huge impact in society by solving some of the major challenges in engineering that society is currently facing. In order to have that kind of impact and solve these important problems, we need to include every section of society, including people with disabilities, in all aspects of ERCs.”