AhAs a small child, I was fascinated by the inner workings of every device in my family’s home. I spent hours disassembling and reassembling radios, toasters and other appliances trying to understand how they work. Some sighted adults were surprised by this, but for me, a blind child exploring the world, it was completely natural.
The steam engine and rocket model kits I received for my birthday did not come with Braille instructions. Even if I couldn’t read the printed instructions, I still assembled it by trial and error. Some big screws, some small screws, 4 pieces with this shape and 2 pieces with this shape form a box. Unfortunately, decades later, little has changed. Instead of rocket models, you’re battling IKEA furniture and the like, but assembly is more like solving a puzzle than a step-by-step process.
His early understanding of disability-related problem solving led him to pursue his interests in STEM, including science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. My personal story of success as a blind scientist, inventor, accessibility activist and principal investigator at Amazon is half luck and half perseverance. However, it is a reminder of the lack of access to information, technology and educational experiences that are hindering the next generation of students with disabilities.
read more: What I learned from the generation of disability activists that followed me
I was lucky to be born into a privileged white and educated family who understood my passion for STEM and supported it since childhood. We are lucky to have teachers who have gone to great lengths to adapt the science and math curriculum for a blind child with a clear passion and potential for STEM. This led me to the University of California, Berkeley, where I studied physics. As a blind student studying and living on a campus designed for sighted students, even in Berkeley, the birthplace of the disability rights movement, I faced familiar barriers. I distinctly remember that one of my courses was tasked with building semiconductor circuits, but I didn’t expect blind children to learn physics with no lab facilities accessible on campus. . Instead, lab partners read gauges and digital displays, paid assistants transcribed schematics, and luckily found a blind mentor who taught them how to build accessible test equipment for themselves. gave me Through another blind student, I found out about her OutSPOKEN. It was one of the first commercially available screens for computers and he was one of the leaders, making it possible to reliably access visual information on the screen.
To pursue a STEM education and career, oppose a world that assumes blind students cannot succeed in fields where diagrams, maps, equations, and other “visual” media are ubiquitous tools of record-keeping and communication. I also needed the grit to do so. But exceptionalism should not be a requirement for people with disabilities to thrive in science and mathematics. If the average sighted kid can make a career in her STEM, shouldn’t the average blind kid be able to do it too?
The battle for STEM inclusion continues today. The blind students who attend the electronics and hobby and robotics workshops I regularly teach usually attend schools that offer similar hands-on learning experiences, but are limited to sighted students. increase. The blind children in my workshops are rarely members of the school’s robotics club. Not because they lack interest or ability, but because most sighted educators can’t imagine blind students succeeding in such clubs.
While teachers certainly need training, education, and additional resources to support accessible STEM education, the main thing that is usually lacking is to prepare students with disabilities as future scientists and engineers. It is the ability to appear successful. In short, her STEM education for most students with disabilities is a low priority because of the prejudices and preconceptions that assume that students with disabilities cannot succeed – barriers that make them incapable of success.
Over the years, it has been recognized that there is a lack of diversity in the STEM field in educational policy and practice. There are major research programs and intervention efforts to improve the diversity of successful students in STEM fields. Academic journals and conferences are devoted to this topic. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on programs that promote diversity in his STEM fields across gender, race, culture and socioeconomic status, yet disability is rarely a significant part of the conversation.
From elementary schools to tutoring centers to colleges and universities, educational institutions and their leaders are having to rethink classrooms and campuses. We need schools that support a truly diverse future of engineers, artists, writers and makers. That diversity must include disability.
Educators cannot make this change alone. Just as we need to ensure that materials and technology are culturally inclusive, we also need to ensure that textbooks, websites and educational software are accessible to students with disabilities. Purely visual science simulations are useless for blind students, deaf students can’t learn from videos without captions, and electronic textbooks that can’t change fonts or scale are useless for dyslexic students. The list goes on and on. We need to help funders, employers, educators, and parents of students with disabilities understand that their disability does not prevent her from succeeding in STEM or any other career. there is.
As with any meaningful effort towards equity, active participation by community members is essential. We need educators and leaders with disabilities who design policies and practices that influence her participation in STEM in the community. Designers and engineers with disabilities should be central to the teams that create accessible materials and technology for use on campus. STEM leaders, with or without disabilities, must take responsibility for removing accessibility barriers and welcoming the next generation of diverse innovators. They must reflect the struggle cry of the disability rights movement.nothing about us without usFrom the classroom to the boardroom, disability inclusion has the power to keep people with disabilities “in the room where it happens” and guide decisions that affect our ability to participate equally with our communities. It is done when
I invite all of us now to revisit the assumptions we have about disability and success, and take the opportunity to raise expectations for the billion people around the world to live with disability. Think inadvertent accessibility barriers in your personal or professional world. This adds unnecessary friction to the successful participation of people with disabilities. Ask yourself how that friction can be removed.
Just as our society is learning to recognize and call out racism, sexism, and other prejudices, we are discovering disability discrimination more broadly in personal interactions and institutions. Only then will people with disabilities have to be very lucky and stubborn to succeed in STEM education, career development or everyday recreational enjoyment. We can move towards an inclusive and accessible world that is not. Normalizing disability means changing social assumptions so that successful people with disabilities in STEM or any other field are no longer rare. Global accessibility and disability inclusion is everyone’s job.
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