AccessSTEM Proceedings–Access to Science: Accommodations and Universal Design Capacity-Building Institutes, 2006 Washington and OregonPDF Version (584 KB) - get Acrobat Reader
Two AccessSTEM Capacity-Building Institutes (CBIs) were conducted by the Northwest Alliance for Access to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (AccessSTEM). Directed at the University of Washington and funded by the Research in Disabilities Education program at the National Science Foundation (NSF) (cooperative agreement #HRD-0227995), the purpose of the CBIs was to increase the capacity of participants and institutions to make science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) classes and programs accessible to students with disabilities.
The ultimate goal of AccessSTEM is to increase the successful participation of people with disabilities in STEM careers. To reach this goal, it is critical that all STEM educators encourage the participation of students with disabilities in STEM courses and employ strategies that make these courses accessible to everyone. The AccessSTEM Capacity-Building Institutes were for K-12 mathematics, science, and special education teachers and administrators; college science, technology, and mathematics instructors; and postsecondary faculty who teach teacher inservice/preservice courses. Institute participants took part in hands-on science experiences and left with useful instructional tools and resources.
The CBIs were offered in cooperation with the annual conferences of two state science teacher associations: the Washington Science Teachers Association (WSTA) and the Oregon Science Teachers Association (OSTA). The first CBI was held October 12, 2006, in Spokane, Washington; the second, October 14, 2006, in Roseburg, Oregon.
Participants in the CBIs were:
- 26 K-12 educators
- 1 science outreach educator
- 6 preservice teachers
- 2 postsecondary educators
Instructors/facilitators of the CBIs were Sheryl Burgstahler, AccessSTEM Director, and Lyla Crawford and Val Sundby, Program Coordinators. These organizations sponsored the CBIs were:
- The Washington Science Teachers Association (WSTA) http://wsta.net/
- The Oregon Science Teachers Association (OSTA) http://www.oregonscience.org/
Handouts and Videos
Most of the handouts and videos used in the Institutes are freely available on DO-IT's AccessSTEM website at http://www.washington.edu/doit/Stem/. They include the comprehensive publication entitled Making Math, Science and Technology Instruction Accessible to Students with Disabilities-A Resource for Teachers and Teacher Educators which can be found at http://www.washington.edu/doit/MathSci/.
The CBIs took participants through a series of presentations, hands-on activities, and discussions that focused on approaches to the inclusion of students with disabilities in science instruction. The typical approach is to provide accommodations (e.g., handouts in large print or Braille, adapted science equipment, a personal assistant) to specific students with disabilities once they enroll in a course. The field of universal design offers a more efficient and inclusive approach where teachers plan for a student group with a wide range of characteristics with respect to race, ethnicity, stature, reading level, physical and sensory abilities, etc, rather than design courses and activities for the average student. This approach builds in accessibility features and thus minimizes, but does not eliminate, the need for accommodations; for example, schools/programs will still need to provide specialized services for Braille production and sign language interpreters if a blind or deaf student, respectively, enrolls in the course. Throughout the CBIs the perspectives of students with disabilities were brought in through panels and video presentations.
The following sections summarize the discussions that took place at the CBI. They are provided here as a record of our work and to share ideas that can help teachers make STEM activities accessible to all students.
Action Steps for Individual Stakeholders
Participants were asked to share what individual stakeholders (e.g., students with disabilities, teachers, parents) can do to promote the success of students with disabilities in STEM studies and careers. Following are their responses:
- Learn to articulate specific accommodations.
- Communicate with others about their disabilities and be proactive.
- Promote the cooperation of others.
- Develop strategies for self-promotion.
- Ask questions and express individual needs.
- Take responsibility for their learning.
- Meet grade level expectations.
- Know their strengths and limitations.
- Participate in their Individual Education Programs (IEPs).
- Know about resources for students with disabilities.
- Require framed (step-by-step) note taking.
- Highlight or bold requirements on assignments.
- Simplify handouts.
- Be flexible.
- Have a positive attitude towards students.
- Use technology in presentations.
- Use email as a communication option.
- Require that all group participants are actively engaged.
- Encourage students to participate.
- Make the classroom environment/arrangement accessible to all students.
- Teach to a variety of student strengths.
- Have large print materials as an option.
- Help students be proactive. Help them become their own advocates.
- Encourage communication between special education and regular education departments.
- Encourage parent involvement.
- Recognize abilities of students with disabilities.
- Apply universal design in preparing lessons.
- Offer different modes of assessment (e.g., tests in multiple formats, presentations, projects).
- Encourage and support the student.
- Coordinate with the teacher and student regarding accessibility and accommodations.
- Locate mentors and role models for the student.
- Avoid being an enabler.
- Learn to let go.
- Help the student set up a study group.
- Go to IEP meetings and give feedback.
- Encourage the student to participate in IEP meetings.
- Recognize the "abilities" within the disability.
- Tap into special talents of the student.
- Ask questions and be flexible.
- Be an advocate for the student.
- Provide the student with needed school materials at home.
- Allow students to increase in independence.
Action Steps for Institutional Stakeholders
Participants were asked what steps that institutional stakeholders (e.g., schools, districts, service agencies) can take to increase the successful participation of people with disabilities in STEM studies and careers. Their responses included the following items:
- Make the school physically accessible.
- Provide teachers with opportunities for professional development.
- Apply for grants to increase accessibility.
- Build a library of resources for the teachers.
- Provide students with disabilities with technical support needed for hardware and software.
- Include students with disabilities in general education classes.
- Make environments (e.g., the playground, classrooms, buses) safe.
- Have meetings with parents about the availability of programs and resources.
- Teach teachers to address students holistically.
- Provide reasonable accommodations for standardized tests.
- Facilitate communication and collaboration between the different grades.
- Increase the number of business partners.
- Encourage the application of universal design throughout the school.
- Help schools with writing and applying for grants.
- Make all schools physically accessible.
- Provide funding to schools for equipment.
- Increase the number of business partners.
- Outfit libraries with assistive technology to help kids with visual impairments and/or slow reading skills.
- Give priority to publishers with universally designed textbooks and products.
- Encourage district-wide universal design practices.
- Increase the number of business partners.
- Increase funding for special programs.
- Make standardized test accommodations easier to obtain.
- Have statewide clearinghouse for adaptive technologies and programs.
- Encourage statewide adoption of universal design.
Action Steps for Participants
When participants were asked to list things they would take back and use in their classes, programs, and/or schools, responses included the following:
- Encourage parents and students and other teachers to empower students with disabilities to learn about STEM and gain confidence in getting the help they need.
- Use the great resources and materials distributed at the CBI.
- Apply the universal design concept to instruction for all students.
When asked how they will use the materials responses included the following:
- Prepare my own presentation on this for Oregon Museum of Science of Industry (OMSI) volunteers and staff. Pass on the information to our technology staff to ensure our website and computer lab is accessible. I'll review our education programs to see if they can be upgraded to universal design, and reproduce the worksheets and information to be available for all OMSI staff and volunteers.
- Increase the amount of visual, tactile, and auditory stimuli I use.
- Write better instructions for labs.
- Improve the format of my website.
- Use the list of resources.
- Increase inclusiveness in labs.
- Implement new ideas in our labs.
- Use the materials given by the Institute.
- Share what I learned with my department.
- Write a grant for technology.
- Use technology options.
- Use tactile ideas such as fabric, paint, and wikki sticks.
- Make lab accommodations and use examples.
- Apply for a minigrant.
- Encourage students to advocate for themselves.
- Invite some special education graduates to come back and talk to current students.
- Take back ideas to help a specific student.
- Share the materials with my school.
- Use my new knowledge of grant options.
- Use resources of AccessSTEM and DO-IT.
- Give the resources to students.
- Use the checklist of best practices for my own teaching.
- Have groups check on another's progress before handing in work.
- Use the Gak experiment.
- Use the CSI fingerprinting assignment.
- Make activities address multiple learning styles and capacities.
- Do a presentation at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and Aerospace Education Services Program.
- Help teachers who I work with implement practices described when using NASA materials.
When asked what was best about the CBI, participant responses were:
- The resources. Everything was so clearly laid out and explained. Tons of resources so I can go out and share my knowledge.
- Multiple ideas for improving existing experiments that would benefit all students.
- Learning about all the different abilities and resources to aid people with the different abilities.
- The thing I liked best about this CBI was the opportunity to break into small groups and discuss ways that we, as teachers, could help make things more accessible for our students. I also loved the fact that the session was specific to science.
- Learning about what resources are available.
- It was easy to learn a lot, even though we were tired. Different activities, lots of information and ideas to take back to school. I thought it was great!
- The wonderful handouts. Also the PowerPoint handouts, so that we didn't have to take any notes. The hands-on group activities thinking specifically in terms of different groups (ADD vs. mobility vs. sensory issues) helped put me in the right frame of mind.
- I think it was great!
- Students with disabilities empowered to train the adults in their educational environment, and the videos showing these students. Also, the activities. Thinking with other teachers about the accessibility of the tasks.
- I felt both Sheryl and Val were very prepared and thoroughly knowledgeable about this topic. I have not thought very much about what accommodations must be made for students in the science lab. Most of my concerns have been about classroom adaptations.
- Learn useful information and practices (some which were new) to best facilitate the learning experiences of students with disabilities in the classroom.
- The group activities, videos, and doing a science lab while considering the different types of disabilities.
These CBIs helped participants gain awareness and skills in making STEM accessible to people with disabilities. As they work with colleagues, parents, administrations, and students, their increased awareness and skills will serve to increase the success of people with disabilities in STEM courses and careers.
For more information about promoting the success of people with disabilities in STEM fields, consult http://www.washington.edu/doit/Stem/.
NSF Regional Alliances for Persons with Disabilities in STEM Education
Contact information for each NSF-Funded Regional Alliance is listed below.
University of Southern Maine
37 College Avenue
Gorham, ME 04038
University of Wisconsin, Madison
338 Goodnight Hall, 1975 Willow Drive,
Madison, WI 53706
New Mexico State University
PO Box 30001/Dept. 3CE
Las Cruces, NM 88003
DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) serves to increase the successful participation of individuals with disabilities in challenging academic programs such as those in science, engineering, mathematics, and technology. Primary funding for DO-IT is provided by the National Science Foundation, the State of Washington, and the U.S. Department of Education. DO-IT is a collaboration of UW Information Technology and the Colleges of Engineering and Education at the University of Washington.
To order free publications or newsletters use the DO-IT Publications Order Form; to order videos and training materials use the Videos, Books and Comprehensive Training Materials Order Form.
For further information, to be placed on the DO-IT mailing list, request materials in an alternate format, or to make comments or suggestions about DO-IT publications or web pages contact:DO-IT
University of Washington
Seattle, WA 98195-4842
206-685-DOIT (3648) (voice/TTY)
888-972-DOIT (3648) (voice/TTY)
509-328-9331 (voice/TTY) Spokane
Founder and Director: Sheryl Burgstahler, Ph.D.
AccessSTEM Capacity-Building Institutes were funded by the Research in Disabilities Education program at the National Science Foundation (cooperative agreement #HRD0227955). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Copyright © 2006, University of Washington. Permission is granted to copy these materials for educational, noncommercial purposes provided the source is acknowledged.