Working Group Summaries

A few participants write down ideas at the AccessEngineering capacity building institute.

During the CBI participants worked in groups to address issues related to increasing the participation of people with disabilities in engineering and including information related to UD in the curriculum. Ideas that were generated include the following:

Strategies for teaching faculty or students about UD or disability

  • There are a variety of ways to give students or faculty a taste of UD or disability. Similar strategies can be used for both groups. These activities could be integrated into a course or done at a faculty meeting:
  • Create and distribute a slide deck used throughout the department
  • Develop an assessment tool for teaching UD
  • Invite guest lecturers
  • Host a panel of students
  • Consider how UD addresses ABET requirements
  • Utilize case studies to demonstrate the benefits of UD
  • Use practical experiences instead of simulation exercises, which can have negative effects
  • Use a screen reader and showcase accessible verse inaccessible websites
  • Plan a faculty inquiry group to learn about UD. Over a series of meetings, self-selected participants would form a community and learn about disability and accessibility together. Potential meeting topics could include
    • “Disability 101,” including history, rhetoric, and social issues,
    • A panel of students with disabilities,
    • Universal design practice, including technology and other issues, and
    • Campus resources and more discussion of changes that could be made.
  • Consider UD in a context other than accessibility. Use a 90-minute class period to discuss space travel. You’re going to Mars, and there is a leak in your spacecraft. The person on the inside of the spacecraft is going to start dealing with hypoxia, and the person on the outside has a spacesuit. What would you do to help the astronauts solve this conundrum, and then what best practices would you include in designing a spacecraft for someone with hypoxia (loss of good vision, motor control, etc.) Then, after that, step back and talk about universal design more broadly.
  • A 2-, 4-, or 6- week program to teach freshman about universal design and accessibility
    • Week 1-2) Using Time Magazine’s Top Innovations (like from this activity:, have each team pick an innovation, and then assign each team a disability. Ask the team to propose changes and amplifications based on the disability to the innovation. Discuss results and why and how changes could be included.
    • Week 3–4) Bring in people with disabilities to discuss changes and amplifications, either one-on-one with each team or as a panel. Redesign as necessary. Reflect on how universal design can create a product that reaches a wider audience.
    • Week 5–6) Have students act as a consumer reports organization, evaluating an every day product, and think about universal design for this product.
  • Create a repository of resources on UD, with three tiers (basic, intermediate, advanced):
    • Basic: Suggested readings, short 15-30 minute lessons, and a pre- and post survey on the attitudes about disability and UD
    • Intermediate: full classroom sessions, experts about engineering and disability as guest lecturers, relationships and projects with outside organizations that include people with disabilities
    • Advanced: Curriculum that builds on concepts of UD, subject matter experts with disabilities who co-design with students
    • This repository would have recommendations for curriculum, methods to reach out to organizations and individuals in the community, suggestions for stakeholder motivations, methods to include departmental support and buy-in, and suggested readings and videos. The repository would also have the weaknesses of UD and show its depths.
  • Improve a current product using UD. Start a class with defining assumptions about a product. Get classroom or team rebuttal on these assumptions, and then revise them accordingly. Reflect on why these assumptions were made and why they were changed. Use universal design to redesign a product, thinking about all users instead of the average user. Create a means to test the redesigned product to see how accessible it actually is.

Resources that could be developed

Hiring individuals with disabilities

  • What would be the perceived risk from a faculty member or lab instructor of hiring a person with a disability? What are the top reasons someone wouldn’t hire a person with a disability?
  • Concerns about lab or equipment accessibility
  • Concerns about task requirements and project scoping
  • Concerns about productivity
  • Concerns about the cost of accommodations
  • Concerns about legal issues

How could we work to alleviate these concerns?

  • Crowdsource questions that faculty have and develop resources addressing those questions
  • Gather success stories of faculty who have hired people with disabilities
  • Gathering feedback from people who have hired people with disabilities
  • Find faculty and researchers who have made their labs more accessible and develop best practices