Two Gallaudet experts presented at a recent virtual workshop on boosting inclusivity and accessibility in the fields of science, technology, math, and engineering (STEM). “Beyond Compliance: Promoting Success of People with Disabilities in the STEM Workforce” — hosted by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine — explored the topic with a summit and series of panels held June 5-16.

Dr. Raja Kushalnagar and Dr. Matthew Seita

Dr. Raja Kushalnagar, director of the B.S. in Information Technology and M.S. in Accessible Human Centered Computing programs, participated in a session on fostering effective mentorship featuring several mentor/mentee pairs. Kushalnagar appeared alongside Dr. Matthew Seita, who interned for Kushalnagar in the summer of 2015 and is now a postdoctoral associate at Gallaudet in his laboratory. Kushalnagar explained how challenging it was to launch his career without deaf mentors, and why he has made it a priority to work with the next generation. The pair reflected on how mentors can help break down the barriers that persist for people with disabilities.

Dr. Caroline Solomon

Dr. Caroline Solomon, director of the School of Science, Technology, Accessibility, Mathematics, and Public Health, addressed how to support students with disabilities as part of a session on “Cultivating Accessible Educational Pathways and Spaces.” She shared the idea of “Deaf Gain” and how the deaf community contributes to society. One example she provided from her work as a marine ecologist is that using ASL allows for more effective communication while scuba diving. Solomon also emphasized the importance of Universal Design and ensuring that laboratory spaces meet the needs of students, which Gallaudet did when renovating its biology and chemistry teaching labs. The overhaul improved sightlines, adjusted the placement of sinks and hoods, and made other changes based on the principles of DeafSpace.

Pending funding, the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine plans to build on this workshop with other related projects.

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