Crystal City, Virginia
April 29, 2018
April 29, 2018
May 2, 2018
In recent years, engineering colleges throughout the nation have implemented a wide range of diversity and inclusion initiatives in order to increase the participation of minority groups. Although there is increasing acceptance of these initiatives within university structures, they are often narrowly defined and fail to include a large group of students who require the same equitable support as other target groups: engineering students with disabilities. This population faces a wide range of physical, cognitive, mental, and social challenges, often in combination. Such challenges call for provisions beyond case-by-case accommodations like accessible classrooms and longer test times and require truly universal design to support all students in engineering. This study aims to identify gaps in support structures that are unique to engineering students with disabilities and to develop strategies that engineering colleges can implement to support this marginalized group of students and ensure that all people can have access to engineering education.
In order to do so, we utilized aggregate data from two campus centers committed to supporting students with disabilities (the Strategic Alternative Learning Techniques [SALT] Center and the Disability Resource Center) as well as information from senior administration to identify: (1) what resources are available to students with disabilities and (2) which of these resources are utilized by engineering students. Preliminary results showed that while resource availability at the university level is high, promotion of these resources is disproportionately low and targeted initiatives to increase accessibility in engineering spaces is limited to nonexistent. Regarding resource utilization, preliminary results indicated that engineering students with disabilities in lower division courses needed more tutoring support for these courses to ensure their success. Additionally, these results showed that knowledge of available resources for students with disabilities may be limited in the engineering student community and disproportionately high number of accommodations are necessary for engineering classrooms.
Based on these results, we have developed four recommendations for supporting engineering students with disabilities: (1) Targeting specific outreach efforts to engineering students with disabilities at the college level to address the unique needs of these students and create a culture of accessibility, (2) implementing principles of universal design in engineering classroom, laboratory, and other maker spaces, (3) increasing awareness of resource availability for engineering students, staff, and faculty so that students may have greater access to these services; and (4) developing targeted support structures for engineering students in their freshman and sophomore years.
Alvarez, A. M., & Johnson, P. C., & Zawada, S., & Shaw, L. R., & Franco, M. A., & Subbian, V. (2018, April), Beyond Ramps and Signs: Rethinking Support Structures for Engineering Students with Disabilities Paper presented at 2018 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity Conference, Crystal City, Virginia. https://peer.asee.org/29518
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