News from Northwest ADA Center – Idaho
Disabled Scientists Excluded from Labs
Who is the first disabled scientist you think of? Probably Stephen Hawking. But he wasn’t the only disabled person who has made a contribution to science. The contributions that marginalized people make to research are rarely acknowledged and struggle to thrive within the scientific workforce.
There is no doubt that the ADA made great strides in increasing participation of students in STEM, but people with disabilities are still vastly underrepresented in science. In 2013, disabled chemists made up only 2.3% of researchers, despite being 8.6% of undergraduates. This drop can be attributed to the physical and attitudinal barriers that come about because of ableism.
Even though the knowledge and skill level is there for researchers with disabilities, laboratories are difficult to navigate. For those having trouble standing for long periods, the typical space is high off the ground. Even a stool can’t be used as space underneath coulters is blocked by cabinets. These high workbenches combined with narrow aisles means you can’t use a wheelchair. And clutter in the aisles often impedes other mobility aids such as crutches or a cane.
We need to build new labs with universal design and renovate old labs accordingly. While there is not yet a standard design for accessible labs, guidelines have been published that are based on universal design. Though this will never completely negate the need for accommodations, it proactively incorporates the most common ones such as adjustable height fume hoods, automatic doors, and pull cord alarms for safety.
Diversity is needed in the scientific world. It’s important to include the perspectives that disabled scientists can offer. Accessibility is beneficial to all, as most people with a disability acquired it over the course of their lifetime. Increasing accessibility makes science more inclusive to disabled students, but also ensures that sjcientists can have life-long careers, regardless of what situations are thrown their way.
For resources on universal design in laboratories try this: http://www.accessiblecampus.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Creating-an-Accessible-Science-Laboratory-Environment.pdf
For more information about the ADA contact:
Dana Gover, MPA, and ACTCP Certification, ADA Training and Technical Assistance Coordinator
For more information about ADA Technical Assistance visit the NW ADA Center Idaho website: nwadacenter.org/idaho
Phone: Voice and Text 208-841-9422
Idaho Relay Service: 7