This presentation summarizes the outcomes of a demonstration project placing post-secondary students with disabilities as research assistants in STEM-related research laboratories. Analyses of tasks typically assigned to research assistants will be presented; and barriers and facilitators to participation will be discussed.
Much attention has been given to the need to educate a diverse workforce in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The NSF stresses the importance of strengthening efforts to recruit and retain chronically underrepresented students in STEM fields. Students with disabilities are among the most marginalized of these groups, and face significant barriers to accessing post-secondary STEM programs. Meanwhile, research shows that participation in STEM-related research experiences during a student’s undergraduate career significantly improves the chances that the student will remain in a STEM field.
This presentation summarizes the results of a demonstration project that placed and supported post-secondary students with disabilities in STEM-related research laboratories. Task analyses of their typically assigned work shows accommodations needed in material handling, and environmental and computer access tasks. The persistence of attitudinal barriers remains a concern.
Facilitators that support students in transitional career employment.
Barriers to placement and retention for students with disabilities in STEM research
Assistive Technology application that remove barriers in laboratory settings
Maureen Linden is a research engineer at the Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access (CATEA) at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech). She holds a Master of Science in biomedical engineering from the University of Virginia. She has experience managing research projects and clinical programs, both in seating and wheeled mobility within the medical model, and job accommodations through the vocational rehabilitation model. Her current research interests include job accommodation use and related employment barriers, facilitators for post-secondary education in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) for students with disabilities, seating support surface development and characterization, and mobility device use characterization. Linden serves on the Executive Committee of RESNA’s Board of Directors, and has done significant work on the development of wheelchair seating standards.
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