A series of activities were undertaken to understand the underrepresentation of people with disabilities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers and increase their participation in these fields. These activities were funded by the Research in Disabilities Education (RDE) program of the National Science Foundation (NSF). They were coordinated by the Alliance for Students with Disabilities in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (AccessSTEM), which is directed by Sheryl Burgstahler.

Capacity Building Activities

AccessSTEM collaborated with key stakeholders to:

  • conduct a Capacity-Building Institute (CBI) in April 2009
  • share results of the CBI with NSF projects and other stakeholders
  • provide an electronic forum to continue discussion of accessibility issues and provide support for accessibility efforts
  • extend resources to other programs and promising practices via an online searchable Knowledge Base

AccessSTEM is a project of the DO-IT Center (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) at the University of Washington in Seattle. AccessSTEM serves to broaden participation in STEM fields through the inclusion of individuals with disabilities.

Goal and Outcomes

All of these activities support an NSF goal: "Working to broaden participation in science and engineering reinforces NSF's mandate to fund the best ideas from the most capable researchers and educators, now and in the future" (Investing in America's Future: Strategic Plan FY 2006–2011, NSF,, p. 3). AccessSTEM CBI outcomes benefit society by making STEM opportunities available to more citizens and enhancing STEM fields with the perspectives of people with disabilities.

Audiences for These Materials

This publication was created for people who:

  • participated in the 2009 AccessSTEM Capacity-Building Institute
  • want to conduct their own Capacity-Building Institute at their institution, in their region, or in a nationwide or international forum. seek to increase their understanding of issues surrounding the underrepresentation and participation of individuals with disabilities in STEM studies and careers
  • are motivated to join an electronic community to continue discussion of these issues
  • are NSF project directors and program officers interested in increasing the participation of people with disabilities in all NSF projects
  • would like to get connected to resources to help them make their project resources and activities accessible to people with disabilities
  • have promising practices to share with others.