Increasing the Participation of People with Disabilities in Engineering Research Centers (2017)

All participants at the 2017 AccessERC capacity building institute.

This publication shares the proceedings of the second annual AccessERC Capacity Building Institute (CBI) entitled Increasing the Participation of People with Disabilities in Engineering Research Centers (ERCs). The content may be useful for people who

  • participated in the CBI;
  • work on diversity goals within ERCs or postsecondary engineering departments;
  • seek to increase their understanding of issues surrounding the participation of individuals with disabilities in ERCs;
  • would like to access resources to help make ERC courses, products, and activities more welcoming and accessible to individuals with disabilities; and/or
  • have promising practices to share with others.

About AccessERC

The goals of AccessERC are (1) to make ERC activities and products welcoming to, accessible to, and usable by people with disabilities and (2) to increase the engagement of individuals with disabilities in ERCs. AccessERC staff work with ERCs across the country to reach the following objectives for ERCs and their collaborating STEM departments:

  • Activities: Increase knowledge, skills, and actions in recruiting, accommodating, and engaging people with disabilities in leadership, advisory boards, research teams, internships, presentations, workshops, engineering labs, and other activities.
  • Materials: Increase knowledge, skills, and actions in making websites, curriculum materials, online learning, video presentations, engineering labs, and other products more welcoming to, accessible to, and usable by individuals with disabilities.
  • Consultation: Offer individual consultation to ERCs regarding accessible products and activities as well as on accommodations for specific individuals with disabilities engaged in their activities and offer ERC participants (and potential ones) with disabilities opportunities to engage in an existing online mentoring and peer support community hosted by DO-IT.

To reach its goals and objectives, AccessERC staff conducts training and community-building activities that include an online community of practice, on-site capacity-building institutes, webinars, and individual consultation. AccessERC provides financial support to ERCs to conduct relevant activities (e.g., conference attendance to a disability-related conference for staff, a focus group, or a panel of students with disabilities; a guest speaker with a disability; an internship in the ERC; STEM conference attendance for a student with a disability). AccessERC staff also develop and deploy resources to help current and future ERCs work toward reaching project goals and objectives.

AccessERC is funded by the National Science Foundation as a supplement to an existing ERC, the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering (CSNE), headquartered at the University of Washington in Seattle. The CSNE has excelled in the ERC community at including individuals with disabilities in research, leadership, and education. The ultimate impact of AccessERC will be to increase the successful participation of people with disabilities in STEM and improve these fields with their perspectives and expertise.