OSTA: A Promising Practice of a Professional Organization Promoting Accessible Science
Professional organizations such as the Oregon Science Teachers Association (OSTA) serve an important function in helping their members stay current on relevant issues in their fields. OSTA made a statement about the importance of including students with disabilities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics by partnering with AccessSTEM to provide their members with training and resources for fully including these students in their courses.
OSTA and AccessSTEM work together in several ways to make science more accessible to students with disabilities. AccessSTEM staff disseminate resources and training materials to OSTA members, participate on the organization's electronic discussion list, and consult with members on practicing universal design and developing accommodations. OSTA and AccessSTEM also collaborate in offering capacity-building institutes (CBIs) for members. CBIs provide comprehensive, hands-on training on making science course and lab activities accessible and welcoming for all students; a goal is for participants to increase their capacity for working with students who have disabilities, as well as the capacity of their departments and schools. The proceedings from such institutes are made available online so that institute resources and findings can benefit other teachers and administrators.
The collaborations between OSTA and AccessSTEM also serve to increase OSTA awareness of accessibility issues of conference attendees. For additional resources and information on making professional organizations accessible and welcoming to all participants consult the publication Equal Access: Universal Design of Professional Organizations.