NSF Funds New AccessERC Project, Creating More Accessible Engineering Research Centers
The Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering (CNT), an Engineering Research Center (ERC) funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and led by the University of Washington (UW), received a supplement to support a nationwide AccessERC initiative. Although diversity is an important goal of ERCs, many ERC leaders report that they struggle to include individuals with disabilities in their activities. AccessERC addresses this issue by engaging ERCs nationwide in training, consultation, community building, and resource development.
AccessERC is led by the CNT Diversity Director, Sheryl Burgstahler, and CNT Diversity Manager, Scott Bellman, who are also the Director and Program Manager of the DO-IT Center and recognized leaders in increasing the participation of individuals with disabilities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Goals of AccessERC are (1) to make ERC activities and products welcoming to, accessible to, and usable by people with disabilities and (2) to increase the engagement of individuals with disabilities in ERCs.
AccessERC staff will be conducting training and community-building activities that include an online community of practice, on-site capacity-building institutes, webinars, and individual consultation. AccessERC provides financial support to ERCs to conduct relevant activities (e.g., conference attendance to a disability-related conference for staff, focus group or panel of students with disabilities, guest speaker with a disability, internship in the ERC, STEM conference attendance for a student with a disability). AccessERC staff also develop and deploy resources to help current and future ERCs work toward reaching project goals. The ultimate impact of AccessERC will be to increase the successful participation of people with disabilities in STEM and improve these fields with their perspectives and expertise.