Paper Competition First Place Winner
Policy Position Paper: Ensuring the Inclusion of People with Disabilities in STEM Education and Careers
Keywords: people with disabilities; education; STEM; workforce; diversity and inclusion; HR4521; S1260
Achieving full inclusion for people with disabilities in STEM is a matter of national security, economic prosperity, and equity. People with disabilities in STEM are underrepresented in postsecondary degrees and employment and they have higher unemployment rates and earn less. Inaction at the federal level has contributed to perpetuating these disparities. The federal government, especially through a signed law, could provide the funding and mandate to establish the institutional support, resources, and incentives needed so people with disabilities have equitable access to STEM and they can contribute to the scientific and technological innovation the U.S. needs to confront its great challenges. Congress has lately been working to bolster the country’s scientific and technological enterprise and to increase the diversity of our STEM workforce, through HR4521, the America COMPETES Act, and S1260, the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act. Some of these proposals are promising but fail to include provisions specific to people with disabilities. As Congress considers a HR4521/S1260 compromise bill, it has the opportunity to include programs that ensure the inclusion and promote the success of people with disabilities in STEM.
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Wisberty J. Gordián-Vélez is a person with a speech disability and a Ph.D. candidate in the Bioengineering Graduate Group at the University of Pennsylvania investigating a regenerative medicine and tissue engineering-based treatment for Parkinson’s disease. He holds a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus.
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