The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines an individual with a disability as a person with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. The NSF reports participation in science by individuals with disabilities in the report on Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering data tables.
In 2010, the Bureau of the Census reported that nearly 20 percent of the United States population had a disability. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reported that in 2012, 11 percent of college students had a disability, and 34 percent of undergraduates with disabilities are from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups. The National Science Foundation reports that in 2014 about six percent of doctoral recipients in science and engineering had a disability.
Stereotypes, a lack of mentors and incomplete knowledge and understanding of the requirements of the ADA are among the challenges that individuals with disabilities face in STEM education and careers. The creation of a diverse biomedical workforce will require the persistent underrepresentation of persons with disabilities to be addressed by the adoption of effective program interventions, assistive technologies and evidence-based education and communication efforts at each career stage. Most colleges and universities have accessible buildings and spaces based on ADA guidelines, but more can be done to make research spaces and teaching approaches more accommodating.
Individuals with disabilities are defined as those with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, as described in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended.
- Women, Minorities and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering, National Science Foundation (2019)
- From College to Careers: Fostering Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in STEM, Science/AAAS Custom Publishing Office (2014)
- Students with Disabilities Choosing Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) Majors in Postsecondary Institutions. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability 27(3):261-272 (2014)
- Americans with Disabilities: 2010 Report, United States Census Bureau (2012)
- Accommodating Students with Disabilities in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM): Findings from Research and Practice for Middle Grades through University Education, National Science Foundation (2012)
- Literature Review: Disabilities and Diversity in Science and Engineering, Assessing Women and Men in Engineering (2012)
- The Future of Disability in America, Report from The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (2007)