Why talk about disability within the geosciences?

Dealing with disabilities and figuring out how to best manage them was a huge part of my time at Stanford“Said Roy Perkins, Earth Systems BS ’20, who wears prostheses on both legs. “I’m very independent and I knew college was a big transition for everyone so I don’t really have the extra time and energy that I put into certain things like showering with the struggle of being a student and full time, connected. Time athlete. I have gradually made more requests for accommodation to the Office of Accessible Education, which has eliminated many of my mobility issues and helped me become a better student. “

What is disability?

More than 26% of adults in the United States, or 61 million people, have some type of documented disability. In the world it is estimated that one fifth of the world’s population or between 110 million and 190 million people suffer from significant disabilities.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which was passed in July 1990, defines disability as “a physical or mental impairment that severely restricts one or more important life activities”. Although the ADA does not specifically name all of the conditions it covers, Many of the disabilities covered can affect a person’s vision, movement, body function, thinking, remembering, learning, communication, hearing, and / or mental health. Some of these conditions may be more noticeable while others are less obvious.

People can experience disability in many ways – they can show it neurodivergent Characteristics like autism or ADHD; use an aid such as a wheelchair, walking stick, or hearing aid; have suffered an injury; have a chronic disease or condition; or have a mental illness. A disability can progressively worsen, remain static, or affect a person temporarily throughout their life. As a result, people with disabilities have very different experiences and potential housing needs.

Disability in Science

Compared to the 26% of the US adult population with a disability, only 11% of undergraduate and 7% of graduate students with a proven disability study STEM subjects in the United States This may mean that students with disabilities enroll in STEM subjects less often or do not state their disabilities sufficiently to avoid stigmatization.

When entering professional life only 4.8% of graduates who embark on a STEM career report their disabilities themselves. Concerns about stigmatization also extend to the professorship. Some US Faculty members say stigma prevents them from speaking openly about their conditions, and that the path to academia for people with disabilities may not encourage them to stay.

For students with neurodiversity, including traits such as ADHD, autism, or dyslexia, tailored classroom learning opportunities can be critical to a successful educational experience. For example, About 25% of college students who receive disability services are diagnosed with ADHDmaking this the most common type of disability supported by university disability offices. in the this study 2021, researchers found that college students with ADHD often received half a grade lower grades than their peers over every four years, and that college students with ADHD were significantly less likely to stay enrolled for semesters. One of the most important indicators that could predict the academic success of students with ADHD is academic support and housing during high school and college.

Disability in the field

Physical barriers to geoscientific learning can exist in the field – from remote field trips with uneven terrain, unusually long or arduous travel expectations, inflexible transportation options, lack of toilets, or lack of accessible learning tools or connectivity. These roadblocks can also be found on campus – through inaccessible laboratories, hidden ramps, broken elevators, poorly designed displays or weak color contrasts.

However, many of the existing barriers are the result of the perceptions some geoscientists have about disabilities. Commonly held Stereotypes about who a geoscientist is, as well as Prejudices about what people with disabilities can or cannot do, create the impression that certain physical abilities are a prerequisite for the profession of geoscientist. Biased employers or counselors may choose not to select people with a disability for jobs or to invite them on field trips based on the perceived barriers.

Other Obstacles to inclusive field research can be institutional. Inflexible transport or accommodation policy, lack of funds for learning materials such as interpreters, lack of medical professionals, reluctance to fill out additional papers or Laboratory restrictions related to disability are all examples of institutional barriers and discrimination that can exist.

Since field research is seen as an integral part of geoscientific training, Disability rights advocates have long pushed for improved field accommodation and other physical learning opportunities. In 2020, the global pandemic highlighted the issue of accessibility in the field, driving a shift towards virtual field learning and the expanded use of visualization tools like Google Earth, remote sensing resources, drone imagery and ultra-high resolution photography. At Stanford Earth, faculty and staff have a collection of Virtual excursions in Stanford Earth which will serve as a tool to make field learning more accessible to all students.

Postpone the narrative

The healthy geoscientist stereotype aims to exclude students with visible disabilities and can also show students with less noticeable disabilities that they are not welcome either.

Almost one in five Americans will have mental illness in any given year, and some of these people can be classified as disabled. Adults with disabilities are almost five times more likely to report mental health problems than non-disabled people. 2018 will be an estimated 17.4 million adults with disabilities often experienced psychological distress associated with restrictions in daily life, increased use of health services, poor health behavior and chronic diseases.

People with less visible disabilities may experience increased fatigue and pain, which affects their performance and that makes them feel the pressure prove the validity of their disability to their superiors and colleagues who do not recognize their disability. Conversely, people with less visible disabilities can also do this choose not to disclose their terms because of the stigma Are associated with a disability that can adversely affect their careers.

Beyond the legally prescribed level of ADA, institutions can use the institutions Universal Design for Learning guidelines optimize teaching and learning based on scientific evidence about how people learn, regardless of whether they have more or less obvious disabilities.

For members of the Stanford community who want to learn more, these are great places to start: Stanford Office of Accessible Education, the Stanford Office of Digital Accessibility, the Stanford Disability Initiative, and Stanford Counseling and Mental Health Services (CAPS).

Stanford Earth has the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) in its Diversity, Justice and Inclusion Initiative (DEI) in 2020. As part of an effort to celebrate and discuss identity, four members of the Stanford Earth Community community talk about how disability, neurodivergence, and chronic illness have influenced and influenced their careers.Deputy Director of the DEI. by Stanford Earth Isabel Carrera Zamanillo; MS student Sabrina Tecklenburg; and alumni Roy Perkins, BS ’20, and Temple of Bliss, BA ’04, BS ’04, discuss their hopes for the future of diversity and inclusion in the geosciences.

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