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Missing from the Classroom: Current Representations of Disability in Engineering Education

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Expanding the Perspectives of Underrepresentation in Engineering

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Minorities in Engineering

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Martina V. Svyantek Virginia Tech Orcid 16x16

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Martina Svyantek is a doctoral student at Virginia Tech working towards an iPhD. Her doctoral research will investigate how disability is discussed, portrayed, and institutionalized within academia.

Her undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering comes from Auburn University (2011). This undergraduate degree will be complemented with further work towards a Masters of Science degree from the Civil and Environmental Engineering department at Virginia Tech, developing K-12 outreach efforts with a structural focus.

Her ePortfolio can be found at:

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The previous year, 2015, was a big year with major implications. ASEE named the 2014-2015 academic year was named the Year of Action on Diversity, emphasizing that engineers and engineering students are a diverse population. 2015 was also the twenty-fifth anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which called for the inclusion of disabled people in all facets of society, including access to higher education. Combining these two major factors are the increasing calls for inclusion and diversity on college campuses nationwide. There are many different identities that have been researched in regards to their representation in the field of engineering; gender, race, veteran status, and, more recently, sexual orientation have been the focus of major research efforts. Disabled people comprise one of the least recognized and largest minority groups, both in the United States and worldwide. People who identify as disabled, however, have not yet received the same manner of coverage.

This paper combines the history of the disability rights movement with engineering education by posing the question, “What are the current perspectives of disability that is communicated through ASEE conference proceedings?” Influencing this work are recent calls for inclusion and diversity within higher education practices, as well as the idea that engineering education can strive to not only find solutions to design problems, but can be used to achieve social justice.

This paper adds to the discussion of underrepresented identities within engineering fields. With the disability rights slogan, “Nothing about us, without us” in mind, a literature search of ASEE national conference proceedings from 2015 backwards to 2010 (the twentieth anniversary of the ADA) was performed to investigate how the field of engineering education already intersects with disability issues.

Svyantek, M. V. (2016, June), Missing from the Classroom: Current Representations of Disability in Engineering Education Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25728

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