Presentation Summaries

Image of Universal Design books from the DO-IT Library

Case Study: Engaging Individuals with Disabilities in an Engineering Research Center

Scott Bellman, Program Manager, DO-IT, UW
Eric Chudler, Executive Director, Center for Neurotechnology (CNT), University of Washington

DO-IT staff work within an NSF-funded Engineering Research Center to engage people with disabilities in research, product development, outreach programs, administration, and other activities. Students with disabilities are featured in CNT promotional materials and three students with disabilities have completed internships in CNT labs.


Sensory Impairments and STEM Students

Captioning Video Presentations

Doug Hayman, Program Coordinator, DO-IT, UW
Terrill Thompson, Technology Accessibility Specialist, DO-IT, UW

All learners can benefit from captioned videos. The UW is engaged in institution-wide efforts to promote captioning of all videos produced by the UW.

Collaborative Real-Time Captioning

Presenter: Jeffrey Bigham, Associate Professor, Human-Computer Interaction Institute, Carnegie Mellon University

Real-time captioning is a vital accommodation but can be expensive and difficult to schedule. Carnegie Mellon University is researching an alternative approach that engages the on-demand effort of multiple non-expert typists to provide a real-time transcript at natural speaking rates. This approach holds promise for providing affordable real-time captioning for people who would otherwise not have access to it.

Deaf STEM Community Alliance and Mainstream Real-Time Captioning

Presenter: Lisa Elliot, Senior Research Scientist, National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) Center on Access Technology, Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT)

Two projects, run by researchers from RIT and NTID, focused on students who are deaf or hard of hearing in intermediate through postsecondary school, in both mainstreamed and general education settings. These projects focused on both adaptation of commercially-available software and technology, and flexibility to address the needs of students, educators, and service providers in creating services to benefit students who are deaf/head of hearing in mainstreamed settings.

On the Participation of Blind and Visually Impaired Individuals in STEM Including Computer Science

Presenter: Andreas Stefik, Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

With the rise of visual media and technology used in K-12 classrooms today, equal access to education for people who are blind and visually impaired is challenging. This situation not only imposes barriers when choosing viable career options, and influence the success of this population in fields that include computer science. The solution to this problem involves not only creating accessible technology options, but also changing the paradigm within the computer science community to become more inclusive and rely less on visual technologies as a means of instruction.

Supporting STEM Students with Disabilities through Academic Coaching, Mentoring, and Other Interventions

Academic Coaching Model

Presenter: Ronda Jenson, Director of Research, University of Missouri, Kansas City

A new academic coaching model helps college students with disabilities and veterans with service-related disabilities reach their academic, career, and personal goals. The presenter, along with Dr. Alexis Petri and other colleagues, developed the academic coaching model as part of the Kansas City Building an Alliance for New Careers in STEM (KC-BANCS) project, which is funded by NSF’s RDE project. Academic coaching involves students talking with a KC-BANCS transition navigator at least five times per semester. During the process, the students set goals and discuss their progress toward these goals. The transition navigators also encourage students to take advantage of the resources their colleges and universities have available and begin career exploration while still earning their college degrees.

Mentors Support Model for Students with Learning Disabilities (LD) in STEM

Consuelo Kreider, Research Assistant Professor, Department of Occupational Therapy
Tony Delisle, Post Doctoral Associate
Jim Gorske, Director, Disability Resource Center, University of Florida

Comprehensive Support for STEM Students with Learning Disability (CS3LD) uses a multi-level approach to broaden participation and achievement of undergraduate students with LD in the STEM fields. It is designed to facilitate development of positive self-efficacy through activities that increase knowledge and personal skills, foster interpersonal relationships, and leverage institutional supports. CS3LD is creating and testing a multi-level (personal, interpersonal, and institutional) model for supporting success of students with LD in STEM. Interpersonal supports are provided through development of multidisciplinary mentorship teams that work to foster academic progression and development of academic and health self-efficacy and self-advocacy for each CS3LD undergraduate. This team works with their undergraduate mentee in developing a mutual understanding of the scholar’s strengths, capacities, and needed accommodations. Each scholar’s core mentorship team is comprised of a STEM graduate student/faculty dyad, a DRC counselor, and a CS3LD PI. The CS3LD mentorship model, activities, and evolution will be shared.

Mentoring in STEM

Presenter: Robert Stodden, Director, Center on Disability Studies, University of Hawaii, Manoa

Mentoring as a strategy has long been applied to support students with disabilities to generate awareness, interest, participation, performance, persistence, and completion in STEM majors but with mixed results. Mentoring occurs in many formats such as one-on-one, group, integrated, virtual, face- to-face, and with or without matching traits (e.g., academic area, personality, gender, disability type).

Mentoring is often viewed as

  • A way to learn a variety of personal and professional skills from individuals who support and encourage growth.
  • A dynamic, reciprocal, long-term, formal or informal relationship that focuses on personal and/or professional development.
  • A mentors acting as sounding board and guide, providing perspective and resources, and asking thought-provoking questions.
  • Mentors and protégés learning from and teaching each other.

Mentoring often supports students in the following ways.

  • Academics: Assisting protégés in understanding how they might adapt to accessing information in light of a given disability.
  • Transitions: Providing guidance at transition points from high school to two-year or four-year college, from two-year to four-year college, from undergraduate to graduate school, or from college to employment.
  • Social skills: Providing advice on how to get along with peers and how to talk about disability.
  • Life skills: Teaching money management and how to use community resources.
  • Role models: Engaging students in discussion or hands-on activities with someone in their field or with a disability.

FabFems Project: a Tool of the National Girls Collaborative

Presenter: Nimisha Ghosh Roy, Program Manager, National Girls Collaborative Project

The FabFems Project is an innovative online collaboration tool developed by the National Girls Collaborative Project, which is committed to informing and encouraging girls to pursue careers in STEM. The primary tool of the project is a national database of women who are inspiring role models. It is free and accessible to young women, parents, girl-serving STEM programs, and other organizations working to increase career awareness and interest in STEM.

The FabFems are women from a broad range of professions in STEM. Many girls have similar interests but aren’t connected to adults who exemplify these career pathways. This is where FabFems come in. When girls have approachable role models (women in STEM who see their work as rewarding, relevant, and enjoyable), their impression of what it means to be a STEM professional can change dramatically, and they are more likely to pursue STEM courses and careers.

Faculty/Staff Engagement and Universal Design

Creating a Faculty Special Interest Group on Disabilities and Accessibility

Presenter: Jonathan Lazar, Professor, Computer and Information Sciences, Towson University

The Special Interest Group on Educational Accessibility serves the Towson University community as a hub for resources related to courses, programs, research, and events for people who benefit from cognitive, motor, communicative, or perceptual alternatives to support their participation in aspects of campus and community life. It is a collaborative project that brings together faculty and staff from all over the university who are interested in issues related to disability and accessibility to discuss, organize, and disseminate information.

Advising Model

Presenter: Christopher Anderson, Director, STEM Initiatives

Introducing Ability Advising to students in order to provide one-to-one confidential communication, as a means of support and advancement in their academic and career paths.

How to Engage with AHEAD and AHEAD Resources

Presenter:  Stephan Smith, Executive Director, Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD)

In mission, AHEAD is the “premiere professional association committed to full participation of people with disabilities in higher education.” In practice, AHEAD seeks to accomplish this through providing resources, consultation, technical assistance, and professional development opportunities to professionals who work in postsecondary settings in positions at the confluence of disability and the academy.

While traditional means of accomplishing this—conferences, journals, whitepapers, online courses, webinars, seminars, and the like—work; increasingly, AHEAD finds the fostering of collaborative partnerships with groups and individuals working in emerging critical issue areas to be a welcome and highly effective way to eliminate to inclusivity and maximize opportunities for equity and equality in postsecondary education and the workplace. STEM is, by any standard, one of the most important of these exciting and challenging areas where collaborative work advance success.

Creating and Distributing Opportunities! Newsletters

Bree Callahan, Director, Disability Resources
Scott Bellman, Program Manager, DO-IT, University of Washington

AccessSTEM has shared over 20,000 copies of Opportunities! News, a publication for postsecondary students with disabilities. The newsletter is used to recruit students, share career development and leadership opportunities, and promote STEM fields. Presenters shared how they developed and distributed this interesting resource. 

Interventions with a K-12 Focus

NCWIT Resources on Inclusion

Presenter: Terry Morreale, Associate Director & CTO, National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT)

NCWIT is a non-profit organization chartered in 2004 by the National Science Foundation to increase the participation of girls and women in computing fields. NCWIT convenes and provisions its rapidly growing coalition of over 500 corporations, academic institutions, startup companies, and non-profits, grouped into alliances (K-12, Academic, Workforce, Entrepreneurial, and Affinity Group). NCWIT’s research-based resources build capacity for people to implement change, raise awareness, and reach out to critical populations. NCWIT produces materials for reform at every level that are attractive, easy-to-use, and free. These resources include data, research reports, practices, curriculum materials, comprehensive toolkits, posters, workbooks, talking points, webinars, and videos.

NSTA Resources

Presenter: William Badders, President, National Science Teachers Association (NSTA)

Since the passage of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1997, schools have been committed to working toward inclusion of students with physical, mental, sensory, and emotional challenges in the K-12 classroom. Yet even with the best of intentions, barriers to learning science have emerged. These barriers include inadequate equipment, communication difficulties, insufficient numbers of instructional assistants and tools in the classroom, and lack of overall administrative support. NSTA is strongly committed to developing strategies to overcome these barriers to ensure that all students have the benefit of a good science education and can achieve scientific literacy.

Fifteen Tips for Implementing Universal Design

Presenter: Al Souma, Coordinator/Faculty, Disabled Student Services, Seattle Central Community College (SCCC)

SCCC has created fifteen basic Universal Design of Learning (UDI) tips that can be suggested to faculty for use in a classroom setting. Students with disabilities report that implementing these strategies  helpt them access learning does not require that they be singled out.

Preparation for Postsecondary STEM Studies in High School Math and Science Among Youth with Autism

Jennifer Yu, Senior Research Scientist
Jose Blackorby, Center Director, SRI International

Recent studies suggest that individuals with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are more likely than other students to gravitate toward STEM fields. However, little is known about high school academic factors that may increase STEM participation in college. It is also unclear which postsecondary pathways a student with ASD persist as a STEM major.

Research of the presenters addresses these issues by analyzing data from the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2, a study conducted from 2001 to 2009 that studies a nationally representative sample of high school and college-aged students in special education, including those with ASD. Findings suggest that taking advanced mathematics courses in a high school general education setting was the strongest predictor of declaring a STEM major in college, regardless of math/science grade point average and achievement scores. Our findings further indicate that students with ASD majoring in STEM fields were more likely to persist in their postsecondary education if they attended a two-year community college rather than a four-year college. They also were twice as likely to transfer from a two-year college to a four-year university than their peers in the non-STEM fields. Such findings may provide parents and educators with strategies to support high school students with ASD who are ultimately interested in pursuing advanced STEM careers.

Attracting Girls, Special Needs, Minority, and Underserved Students to STEM Majors and Careers

Presenter: Daniela Marghitu, Faculty Coordinator and Director, Research Lab for Education and Assistive Technology, Auburn University

With women and people with disabilities underrepresented in STEM majors and careers, it is clear that more needs to be done to reach out to these communities to change attitudes and misperceptions. To combat this issue, we developed various camps to engage people with disabilities and girls in computer science activities. The Robo Camp K-12 program at Auburn University introduced gifted children to more advanced programming and robotics concepts. Computer Science for All Girls (CS4ALL-G) provided a hands-on learning environment for middle school girls that helped build confidence and reflect on their learning.

Transition Supports

Ability Advising/Student Learning Communities

Presenter: John Gallagher, Professor, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Wright State University

The Dayton Quad of Ohio’s STEM Ability Alliance has focused efforts on individual developmental advising (Ability Advising) and Learning Communities. The presenter discussed local adaptations and interpretations of these techniques and provide program outcome data associated with use of these interventions.

Veteran Education Transition Supports in College

Presenter: Yovhane Metcalfe, Assistant Professor, VCU Rehabilitation Research Training Center, Virginia Commonwealth University

The presenter shared information about a study currently underway to examine STEM enrollment for GI Bill recipients. The study also considers how retention in STEM majors and careers may be encouraged for these individuals.

Autism Spectrum Navigators Program

Susan Gjolmesli, Director, Disability Resource Center
Sara Gardner, Program Manager, Autism Spectrum Navigators (ASN), Bellevue College

Now in its fourth year, the ASN program at Bellevue College continues to enjoy stellar outcomes, including a near 100% retention rate, steady above-3.0-GPA group average across all three quarters, and an 86% class completion rate. The program provides services beyon what the American Disabilities Act (ADA) requires to the underserved population of students on the autism spectrum. It’s design is based on a social justice model rather than a medical model of disability. It helps students discover their personal strengths and find ways to support their areas of difficulty so that they can lead personally fulfilling lives. The program works to increase accessibility to areas of college life and beyond, including academics, working with others, socializing, and being a part of the community.

Technology Access

Access Technology Center (ATC)

Presenter: Dan Comden, Access Technology Consultant, ATC, University of Washington

The ATC serves users with disabilities at the University of Washington, allowing full use of campus computing resources. ATC hardware and software provides Braille, alternate document formatting and magnification for blind/low-vision users, keyboard/mouse alternatives, speech-input software, and more. ATC staff also provides IT accessibility consultations and instructs users in accessible hardware and software basics. The goals is to ensure that the UW develops, procures, and uses technology that is accessible to all students, faculty, and staff, including those with disabilities.

Accessible Science Equipment

Presenter: Kayla Brown, Program Assistant, DO-IT, University of Washington

DO-IT’s collection of accessible science equipment is always on display at the Access Technology Center on the University of Washington campus. It is often used in outreach events where students and teachers can explore the equipment and learn how science can be made more accessible through the application of universal design. The goal is to increase awareness on the part of faculty, staff, and students of how people with disabilities can fully engage in STEM academic programs and careers.

Technology Adoption and Students with Learning Disabilities

Presenter: Katherine Deibel, Consultant

Assistive technologies hold great promise for helping students with disabilities achieve success. However, such technologies are only helpful if they are actually used. Unfortunately, studies report that 35–50 percent of all assistive devices are abandoned after purchase. Understanding the reasoning behind choosing to adopt or reject an assistive device is a complex story fraught with multiple players and agendas as well as various sociocultural, technical, economic, and environmental factors. In particular, technology adoption is largely driven by communication and awareness of the technology itself. For invisible disabilities such as dyslexia, the decision to use technology may make one’s disability evident to others. Thus, choosing to use technology involves complex social negotiations involving issues of identity, normalcy, and disability.