Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Access


After this presentation, faculty and administrators will be able to:

  • list challenges in gaining and demonstrating knowledge of students with disabilities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) classes
  • discuss accommodations for students with various types of disabilities in STEM courses
  • describe a process for selecting appropriate accommodations


Approximately 45 minutes.


The disabled student services coordinator or counselor would be responsible for coordinating the presentation. This program may be co-presented with a staff member or student on campus who has experience with people with disabilities in STEM.


  • Select the presenter(s).
  • Develop presentation outline and activities using the "Sample Script" provided in this section and the ideas listed in the Presentation Tips section.
  • Create presentation slides from provided templates.
  • Add the contact information for campus resources to the "Resources" slide and to printed publications as appropriate.
  • Photocopy the handout templates Working Together: Science Teachers and Students with Disabilities and Equal Access: Science and Students with Sensory Impairments. Create alternative formats as necessary.
  • Photocopy the presentation evaluation instrument to distribute at the end of the session or create your own.
  • Add a link on your department's website to The Faculty Room at

Equipment and Tools

  • DVD player and monitor
  • Video projector, computer, and presentation slides; Internet connection (optional)
  • Video (open captioned and audio described version of Working Together: Science Teachers and Students with Disabilities)
  • Handouts (Working Together: Science Teachers and Students with Disabilities and Equal Access: Science and Students with Sensory Impairments)
  • Presentation evaluation instrument

Presentation Outline

  1. Distribute handouts.
  2. Introductions.
  3. Begin presentation.
  4. Introduce and play video as noted in the script.
  5. Discuss possible accommodation strategies.
  6. Discuss department or campus issues.
  7. Note campus resources.
  8. Distribute and collect completed evaluation instruments.


For further preparation resources for this presentation, consult:

Sample Script

Today we will be discussing how to provide full access to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) classes for students with disabilities.

The objectives of today's presentation are to:

  • discuss the challenges students with disabilities face in gaining and demonstrating knowledge in STEM classes
  • list examples of accommodations for students with various types of disabilities in STEM courses
  • describe a process for selecting appropriate accommodations

As scientific fields make increasing use of technology, new opportunities emerge for people with a variety of abilities and disabilities. When students with disabilities and teachers form learning partnerships, the possibilities for academic and career success multiply.

Some conditions of students with disabilities are visible; some are invisible. Since each person's situation is unique, the best solutions for maximizing participation arise when the student and teacher work together to develop creative alternatives to challenges faced by students with disabilities. Such challenges occur when gaining and demonstrating knowledge. In most cases, it takes just a little creativity, patience, and common sense to make it possible for everyone to participate and learn.

We will view a video in which college-bound and postsecondary students with disabilities share their access challenges and accommodation needs in science courses.

The students in this presentation shared their experiences in the science classroom. Let's discuss some of their solutions to the challenges they encountered. This information is summarized in your handout entitled Working Together: Science Teachers and Students with Disabilities. Imagine having these students enrolled in a freshman science course at our institution. Their challenges can be broken down into two areas: gaining knowledge and demonstrating knowledge.

[Discuss the access challenges and solutions that follow and those that can be found in the handout. Encourage comments, suggestions, and experiences from the participants.]

Gaining Knowledge

Many students with disabilities face challenges gaining knowledge. Examples of specific challenges and accommodations follow:

  • The student who has difficulty reading standard text or graphics due to a visual impairment can benefit from materials in large print or Braille, an electronic format, or enlarged or tactile drawings. Provide access to adaptive technology that creates content in these formats.
  • The student who cannot see materials on a blackboard or in a slide presentation due to visual impairment can benefit from binoculars, verbalization of the content, and oral descriptions of all visually displayed materials.
  • For a student who cannot read output from standard equipment because of a visual impairment, you can interface lab equipment with a computer and provide large print or speech output; utilize scientific equipment with Braille and large print markings.
  • A student with difficulty hearing a presentation or instruction may use an FM system, interpreter, and printed materials. In addition, the instructor can face the student for lip-reading and use presentation slides or a blackboard.
  • A student who cannot hear multimedia presentations can be accommodated by captioned presentations or an interpreter.
  • Students unable to participate in class discussions due to a hearing or speech impairment may be accommodated with electronic communications (e.g., Internet or online chat); where the ability to hear or speak is required, a portable computer with speech output can be used.
  • Visual, aural, and tactile demonstrations can be incorporated into instruction for students with trouble understanding concepts due to a specific learning disability.
  • A student experiencing reading difficulties due to a learning disability may benefit from extra time and access to materials via a computer equipped with speech and large print output and Internet access.
  • Students unable to take notes in class because of a mobility or visual impairment can benefit from in-class access to a computer with adaptive technology and word processing.
  • Some accommodations for students experiencing problems operating lab equipment and conducting lab experiments due to a mobility impairment may include accessible facility, adjustable-height tables, lab partner, scribe, computer-controlled lab equipment with alternative input devices (e.g., speech, Morse code, alternative keyboard), or modified scientific equipment.
  • A student who has difficulty seeing demonstrations or viewing lab experiments while seated in a wheelchair can benefit from adjustable height tables and flexible seating arrangements.
  • Flexible scheduling arrangements may assist students with difficulties completing assignments or labs due to a health impairment.
  • Information accessible on computers with adaptive technology can accommodate students who have problems doing research.

Demonstrating Knowledge

Some students with disabilities cannot demonstrate mastery of a subject by writing, speaking, or by working through a problem in a lab. Many of the accommodations for gaining knowledge can help the student demonstrate mastery of a subject as well. Examples of other accommodations follow:

  • The student who has difficulty completing and submitting worksheets and tests because of a visual impairment or a specific learning disability can be accommodated by worksheets and tests in large print, Braille, on tape, or in an electronic format. Access to adaptive technology that provides enlarged text, voice, or Braille as well as standard print output may be necessary.
  • For students experiencing trouble completing a test or assignment because of a disability that affects the speed at which it can be completed, the instructor can schedule extra time for the test or make alternative testing arrangements for the students.
  • In-class access to a computer with alternative input (e.g., Morse code, speech, alternative keyboard) devices can benefit students who cannot complete a test or assignment due to a physical impairment.

Case Study

[Consider having participants discuss a case study. Case #2 on page 65 in the Presentation Tips section.]


A common perception is that accommodations for students with disabilities are complex and expensive. However, most accommodations are inexpensive and simply require creative problem-solving on the part of the students, instructors, and disability services staff.


Here are some resources that might be useful to you as you work to maximize effective communication with all students in your STEM classes. [Elaborate.]

For comprehensive information on accommodations, a wide range of case studies, frequently asked questions, and general resources, visit The Faculty Room at This resource was developed at the University of Washington as part of a nationwide project to provide resources to faculty and administrators so that they can make their courses and programs accessible to all students. You can link to this resource from ____. [Arrange to provide a link from your campus' disabled student services website before the presentation.] Consider linking to this website from your department's faculty website.

Thank you for your time today and for your interest in finding ways to ensure that all of the students in our programs have equal opportunities to learn, explore interests, and express ideas.