Monday’s eclipse was probably the most viewed eclipse in human history! The Path of Totality, where the full eclipse was visible, stretched from Oregon to South Carolina. More than 12 million people live in the Path of Totality and a few million more traveled to be there for the amazing sight. Even more millions of people watched the partial eclipse (including a few librarians in suburban DC 😉 ). People bought special glasses, rigged up filtered telescopes, and made their own pinhole cameras out of boxes and colanders. Scientists at NASA even made sure people with visual disabilities could experience the event through soundscapes! In the crowd of sky-gazers there were many young people who will no doubt decide that a career in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) is where they’re headed, including young people with disabilities. These budding astrophysicists, engineers, and mathematicians have much to learn, and there are tools to help them throughout their education and into the lab, observatory, or maybe even the International Space Station!
Here are three tools from NIDILRR-funded projects can support STEM students with disabilities in the classroom and beyond:
- Capti Narrator, developed under several Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants, is a universally accessible, text-to-voice browser students can use to read any website or digital document, including ebooks and cloud-based productivity suites like Google Docs. It can be used on a desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone to read text aloud.
- The Signing Science dictionary, also developed under an SBIR, is the first illustrated, interactive 3D sign language dictionary. It was designed for students who are Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing and use American Sign Language (ASL) or Signed English (SE) in the classroom. It is also intended to serve as a resource for teachers and parents.
- Teachers who work with Deaf students may also want to check out MyASLTech from IDRT, another SBIR alumnus. MyASLTech gives teachers the tools to create and archive ASL-supported educational materials and quizzes. Teachers can use it to support text with sign graphics and video in real time, build and share creations with other myASLTech Community members, and play games with students that reinforce ASL and English literacy.
- For college students pursuing degrees in STEM, learn how to advocate for the supports you need with the Access to Success program from the University of Kansas!
Three NIDILRR-funded projects are currently working on solutions to support students with disabilities exploring STEM fields:
- The Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center to Develop and Evaluate Rehabilitation Technology and Methods for Individuals with Low Vision, Blindness, and Multiple Disabilities focuses part of its work on facilitating access to STEM education and careers through the development of new tools for accessing graphics such as a Tactile Graphics Helper and sonification cues for computer screen readers, developing new tools for accessing devices and appliances with digital displays, developing guidelines for teachers in the use of 3-D printing technology for the benefit of STEM students, and developing tools and techniques to enhance access to the Maker Movement by consumers who are blind.
- The project to develop an Image Categorization Expert System to Facilitate Creation of Accessible Education Materials focuses on creating accessible instructional materials so they can be used by students with print disabilities. STEM instructional materials can rely heavily on graphics, such as diagrams, photographs, charts, and plans. For students with print disabilities, it’s essential that these images be accessible, with accurate tagging and descriptions so they can fully understand the information being presented. The project is developing a set of open source software tools to improve current workflows for creating accessible images in scanned textbooks.
- For teachers working with students with disabilities, Accommodation Integrated Technology To Minimize The Impact Of Disability On Students’ Assessment Performance is developing a system to create accessible assessments for children in grades K through 5. The innovative, easy-to-use, and secure web-based system integrates Universal Design principles for assessment, allowing K-5th grade teachers to independently create assessments of any type in any subject area and deploy that assessment to one or more students with embedded text-to-speech functions, audio controls, and visual accommodations.
- Are you considering a career as a scientist in disability and rehabilitation? Check out the Advanced Rehabilitation Research Training projects, which train emerging scientists in several fields, including rehabilitation engineering, physical and occupational therapy, data and statistical sciences, policy, psychiatric rehabilitation, and much more.
Outside of the NIDILRR community, check out these articles and organizations supporting emerging and established scientists with disabilities:
- Check out AccessSTEM from the DO-IT Center at the University of Washington, whose goal is increasing participation in STEM by people with disabilities. The website includes information and resources on accommodation and universal design, a knowledgebase, and tools for both students and educators.
- EdTech Magazine highlighted tools for students with disabilities pursuing careers in STEM.
- Leading the Way for Scientists with Disabilities, 2013 article from Science Magazine, the magazine of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
- The Chemical Heritage Foundation is conducting an oral history project to collect the wisdom of scientists with disabilities.
- The National Institutes of health highlighted women scientists with disabilities in a recent video.
- The National Center on Universal Design for Learning supports educators and curriculum developers in creating course materials, activities, and assessment tools that can be used by all students.
Want to dive deeper? The NARIC collection includes many articles, books, and reports on STEM education and students with disabilities:
- Abstracts of publications from the NIDILRR community.
- Abstracts from other sources, including international publishers.
As always, our information specialists are on hand to help you find the resources you need, whether you’re a student working on an assignment, a college-bound emerging scientist, a teacher working with these students, or a career scientist working in the field. Call us, email us, or chat with us!