AccessSTEM Proceedings–Access to Science: Accommodations and Universal Design Capacity-Building Institutes, 2006 Washington and Oregon

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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:

Instructors/facilitators of the CBIs were Sheryl Burgstahler, AccessSTEM Director, and Lyla Crawford and Val Sundby, Program Coordinators. These organizations sponsored the CBIs were:

Handouts and Videos

Most of the handouts and videos used in the Institutes are freely available on DO-IT's AccessSTEM website at 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


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:

Students can

Teachers can

Parents can

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:

Schools can

Districts can

States can

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:

When asked how they will use the materials responses included the following:

CBI Evaluations

When asked what was best about the CBI, participant responses were:


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.

Further Information

For more information about promoting the success of people with disabilities in STEM fields, consult

NSF Regional Alliances for Persons with Disabilities in STEM Education

Contact information for each NSF-Funded Regional Alliance is listed below.

University of Washington
Box 355670
Seattle, WA 98195
206-221-4171 (FAX)

University of Southern Maine
37 College Avenue
Gorham, ME 04038
207-780-5129 (FAX)

MIDWEST Alliance
University of Wisconsin, Madison
338 Goodnight Hall, 1975 Willow Drive,
Madison, WI 53706
608-262-6466 (FAX)

New Mexico State University
PO Box 30001/Dept. 3CE
Las Cruces, NM 88003
505-646-3367 (FAX)

[Map of the states, color coded to the regions listed in the linke


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:

University of Washington
Box 354842
Seattle, WA 98195-4842
206-685-DOIT (3648) (voice/TTY)
888-972-DOIT (3648) (voice/TTY)
206-221-4171 (fax)
509-328-9331 (voice/TTY) Spokane

Founder and Director: Sheryl Burgstahler, Ph.D.

DO-IT Funding and Partners

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.