The United States workforce is struggling with a shortage of highly skilled professionals in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. This is due in part to the underrepresentation of specific populations in STEM, including women, racial/ethnic minorities, and individuals with disabilities.
Research reveals that people with disabilities experience a lower level of career success than those without disabilities. They are less likely to attend college, pursue STEM majors, and earn degrees. People with disabilities who are also racial/ethnic minorities and/or females face additional challenges in their pursuit of STEM careers. However, the success stories of the relatively low numbers of individuals with disabilities in STEM demonstrate that opportunities do exist for those prepared to meet the challenges that they encounter. They acquire academic, technical, and self-determination skills and find ways to overcome barriers, such as inadequate access to role models , technology, and encouragement from instructors and support staff. Successful people with disabilities can pave the way for students with disabilities who are ready to take on challenges in pursuit of STEM majors and careers, and they can demonstrate to educators, employers, and other stakeholders the unique contributions that talented students and employees bring to STEM fields.
The purpose of this book is to
- highlight the accomplishments of STEM students and professionals with disabilities;
- share strategies and best practices for fully including students who have disabilities in STEM academic programs and careers; and
- increase the successful participation of people with disabilities in STEM and improve these fields with their unique perspectives and expertise.
The student essays in this book are organized into three main themes: student journeys and pathways into STEM, the importance of a supportive community, and student reflections about how STEM fields can change the world. Through their stories, we hope that you enjoy getting to know these students as much as we have and are motivated to begin or further your efforts to promote the full inclusion of individuals with disabilities in STEM careers.