Making Design Reviews Accessible to Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Participants: A Promising Practice in Engineering Education

Design reviews are a common part of engineering education practice. In design reviews, students or student teams present their work to their classmates, instructors, and sometimes a panel of users or external experts for feedback and commentary. This practice gains formative feedback from multiple perspectives on a student’s project to ultimately strengthen both the project and the student’s communication and technical skills as engineers.

What tools can facilitate conversations between students with disabilities and their advisors?

It is important for students, including those with disabilities, to communicate with their  advisors about their disability-related needs and accommodations. Several tools can help facilitate these conversations. They include mentoring contracts, annual evaluations, and individual development plans.

How can the engagement of students with disabilities in postsecondary career centers be increased?

Postsecondary career centers can help students prepare for employment by teaching them how to create resumes, improve interview skills, and locate employment opportunities.

Some career centers understand the unique needs of students with disabilities such as accessible facilities, materials in accessible formats, learning about disability disclosure, and understanding legislation such as the American’s with Disabilities Act and its 2008 Amendments. Promising practices for engaging students with disabilities, include:

The UW Career Center Resume Book: A Promising Practice in Promoting Employment for STEM Students with Disabilities

Postsecondary career centers help students create resumes, learn about the labor market, practice for interviews, and connect students with recruiters. Ultimately, their goal is to empower students to secure internships and jobs that support career goals. They also provide services to recruiters seeking candidates for open positions.

The University of Washington’s Career Center noticed that quite often recruiters ask to recruit candidates with disabilities, stating that they were seeking these candidates because:

How can computing courses be made more accessible to students with specific learning disabilities?

A “specific learning disability” refers to a variety of diagnoses such as difficulties with oral or written expression; decoding, fluency, and comprehension; auditory processing; working memory; arithmetic; and executive functioning. There are a variety of strategies that instructors can use to make computing courses more accessible for students with specific learning disabilities. Consider adopting a growth mindset approach that focuses on students’ abilities to learn and grow rather than talent or intelligence.

How can engineering labs and machine shops be made more accessible to students with disabilities?

Hands-on learning in lab courses is an important component of an engineering degree program. As increasing numbers of people with disabilities pursue educational opportunities in engineering, accessibility of engineering teaching and research labs is critical. The ultimate goal is simply equal access. Students, faculty, and staff who need to use a lab should be able to do so comfortably. 

To ensure that an engineering lab is more accessible, consider the following:

How can engineering departments be welcoming and accessible to students with disabilities?

The group of individuals pursuing engineering fields is becoming increasingly diverse with respect to gender, race, ethnicity, learning style, age, disability, and other characteristics. Engineering careers are potentially open to individuals with disabilities because of advancements in assistive technology that provide access to computers and facilitate common engineering tasks such as 3D-printing or Computer Numerical Control machines for fabrication and manufacturing.