From College to Careers: Fostering Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in STEM
From College to Careers: Fostering Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in STEM is the product of a collaborative project initiated to examine current issues and explore future directions for improving the academic success and career entry rate of postsecondary students with disabilities (SWDs) in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. This publication contains chapters prepared by four groups of invited authors who shared their pertinent research findings, expert knowledge, and views on key topics pertinent to this topic. The chapters include: (1) Chapter 1-Technologies to Facilitate the Active Participation and Independence of Persons with Disabilities in STEM from College to Careers; (2) Chapter 2-Interventions with College Students to Increase the Representation of Persons with Disabilities in STEM Careers; (3) Chapter 3-College Students with Disabilities in STEM: Expanding Opportunities by Enhancing Communication of Evidence-Based Information with Stakeholders; and (4) Chapter 4-On the Sustainability of Programs for Students with Disabilities: Observations and Practical Ideas.
From College to Careers: Fostering Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in STEM is a significant resource for informing the field, providing guidance for policy and practice and workforce solutions. This resource can be used in program development, course development, teacher training, and other professional development for continuous program improvement, such as a study circle for program administrators as well as by practitioners who are interested in helping learners with disabilities succeed in the field of science, engineering, and technology.
Shingledecker notes in the resource five categories of specific barriers to the success of students with disabilities (SWDs) in STEM fields of study: (1) motivation (career awareness, STEM role models, and hands-on experiences); (2) higher cognitive skills (problem solving, critical thinking, decision making, and reasoning); (3) academic preparation (modified academic performance standards, STEM curriculum, and educational technology); (4) psycho-social skills (independence and self-determination, self-advocacy, and persistence); and (5) opportunity (parent/teacher expectations, employer/faculty awareness, and STEM lab access) (p. 6-7). Rich with specific examples of both need and solution, the research in this resource can be used to: inform the development of appropriate accommodations specific to STEM students; increase the inclusion of STEM-specific needs in standard processes and products already in use for accommodations; increase STEM program awareness for both the hardware and 'soft skill’ needs of SWD; increase STEM program providers’ awareness of the effect of past limited access on their current students; and create data to use for potential workplace accommodations in the STEM workforce.
The resource features four distinct chapters. The first chapter on assistive technology is rightfully described as helping to level the playing field academically and professionally. It provides an overview with examples of specialized STEM assistive technology (AT), practice-based educational programs, and AT design strategies for overcoming the physical barriers that students with disabilities encounter as they progress through STEM higher education and transition to a career in science and engineering. The second chapter reviews the use of programmatic interventions and practices aimed at increasing the success of persons with disabilities (PWDs) in STEM undergraduate degree programs, and in their subsequent passage into STEM career fields. The third chapter focuses on enhancing communication with stakeholder groups for the purpose of promoting the success of students with disabilities in STEM, particularly in college. Equal to the development of effective programs to promote the inclusion of PWDs in STEM disciplines is the need to sustain and grow these programs for long-term success and this is highlighted in the final chapter on sustainability. A number of valuable programs and interventions have been developed, aimed at improving the educational experience of SWDs in STEM fields. A basic literature search found a number of representative programs and successful interventions; pedagogical and curricular initiatives for these students have been researched and implemented into the STEM classroom at a variety of grade levels. A reference section follows each chapter.