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Individuals with Disabilities

“Undergraduates with disabilities have stated that a key reason for not pursuing STEM fields of study was that they perceived the careers associated with these majors would require significant hands-on job activities inaccessible to them.” — Bradley S. Duerstock and Clark A. Shingledecker, 2014

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 here.

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. According to the Council of Graduate Schools and statistics from NCES, in 2008 about seven percent of all doctoral students and about six percent of doctoral students in health or life science programs had a disability.

Stereotypes, a lack of mentors and ignorance about 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.

Selected Reports

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