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Beyond Ramps and Signs: Rethinking Support Structures for Engineering Students with Disabilities

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Conference

2018 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity Conference

Location

Crystal City, Virginia

Publication Date

April 29, 2018

Start Date

April 29, 2018

End Date

May 2, 2018

Conference Session

Disability Track - Technical Session VI

Tagged Topic

Disability

Page Count

10

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/29518

Download Count

63

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Paper Authors

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Alexander Michael Alvarez University of Arizona

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Alex Alvarez is an MD/PhD student at the University of Arizona. His primary research area for the PhD in Biomedical Engineering is in ultrasound characterization of electrical signals in the heart. A secondary focus is on promoting and advocating for inclusion of all people of diverse backgrounds in engineering, science, and medicine - especially in educational spaces for these fields.

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Paula C. Johnson University of Arizona Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0002-6750-9843

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Paula C Johnson is an Associate Librarian at the University of Arizona. She is the liaison to the College of Engineering, working out of UA Libraries' Research and Learning Department.

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Stephanie Zawada M.S. University of Arizona

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A graduate student in Electrical & Computer Engineering at the University of Arizona, Stephanie Zawada is a research assistant to the Senior Vice President, Jon W. Dudas, former Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property, and co-investigator on a joint AZ-Israel collaboration in the lab of Marvin J. Slepian, MD, inventor of the SynCardia Artificial Heart. Bridging science, law, and business, Zawada has interned with the NIH Office of Technology Transfer, the Law Library of Congress, the Goldwater Institute, and Quarles & Brady LLP. Graduating from UA with a bachelor’s in biochemistry as the Class of 2015’s Gold Medal Senior, Zawada was the recipient of the General Electric/LULAC Scholarship (2012-2015) and
a NASA Space Grant (2012-13). As a U.S. Senate intern, she assisted in the development of a HELP Committee memo during the landmark Supreme Court case that ruled in favor of cDNA patentability. She has promoted science-policy dialogue as editor of the ABA Biotechnology Law Newsletter, an AMSA Just Medicine Committee member, and an international representative to the 2017 AAAS Science & Diplomacy Leadership Workshop.

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Linda R. Shaw

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Marla A. Franco University of Arizona

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Marla A. Franco, Ph.D., serves as the Director of Assessment and Research for the Division of Student Affairs, Enrollment Management, Academic Initiatives, and Student Success at the University of Arizona, where she leads the design and implementation of research, assessment, and evaluation plans across 45 units and departments to support a data rich environment for improved student learning and strategic decision making. Dr. Franco has close to 20 years of experience in higher education, which has brought her countless opportunities to assess, research, and inform educational practice, particularly in ways that have helped educators best understand the unique needs and outcomes of diverse college student populations.

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Vignesh Subbian University of Arizona

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Vignesh Subbian is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and the Department of Systems & Industrial Engineering at the University of Arizona. His primary interests are biomedical informatics, healthcare systems engineering, and STEM integration.

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Abstract

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

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2018 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015