Making science more accessible to people with disabilities
A biologist examining a skull. Credit: Anthro Illustrated

There are fears that accommodations for people with disabilities in science, technology, engineering, math and medicine will be rolled back after the Pandemic. The International Day of Persons with Disabilities will take place on December 3, and a research team is calling for ways to make work more accessible.

"We're hearing more and more about how nice it is to be together again, as well as calls to put the Pandemic behind us," said the Associate Professor of Anthropology. Lessons learned during the Pandemic will likely be lost.

The situation and framework for potential solutions were outlined by Wander, Siobhn Mattison and others. The paper looks at the ways in which disabilities are created by social processes as well asbiological ones. The authors said that many people within STEMM are unaware of the insights of disabilities studies.

The dynamics of exclusion on the basis of disability are similar to other exclusionary dynamics, such as those based on sex/ gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity or socio-economic status. The authors acknowledge that each type of exclusion has its own characteristics.

The experiences of exclusion are similar, so how they can be mitigated should be considered. Some people with disabilities, as well as people from minority groups, found that remote work alleviated a lot of the bias they experienced in the workplace. Not everyone finds remote work accessible due to a number of factors. There isn't a single solution that will increase inclusion for all groups.

The approach advocated by the authors is based on flexibility, accommodations and modification.

Providing more flexibility in the workplace will allow people with disabilities and others who face constraints to contribute more. Accommodations should be available to help people achieve their roles' core functions when broad flexibility isn't available. Modification of work duties can make it easier for people with disabilities to work in positions that are not suited for them.

Changing long-standing practices is one of the things that can be involved in adopting FAM strategies. The benefits to science, students and patients are likely to be significant.

Everyone can be benefited by the approach. Injuries, illness and aging can change a person's circumstances in the future. The authors point out that no one is more than one illness away from lasting disability.

Inclusion is something that needs to be taken care of. "If we are going to say that everyone deserves a seat at the table, then we have to make sure that places are set for everyone."

The co-authors include Mattison and Wander, as well as Allistair Abraham, Megan Moodie, and Feranmi.

"Community voices: broadening participation in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine among persons with disabilities" was published in Nature Communications.

The Community voices: broadening participation in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Medicine among persons with disabilities was written by Siobhn M. Mattison and colleagues.

Journal information: Nature Communications