Deaf and Hard of Hearing Individuals Diversifying the STEM Workforce through Increased Access to STEM Education – Jason Nordhaus

A robust national STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) workforce benefits significantly from participation from diverse groups (e.g. minorities, people with disabilities, people who learn English as a second language). One way to diversify the STEM workforce is to empower those who have historically been marginalized, such as deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) people, to gain the skills to pursue STEM degrees. DHH people earn STEM bachelor’s degrees at a lower rate when compared to hearing people (15.5% DHH vs. 24.9% hearing; Walter & Dirmyer, 2013). DHH individuals may not have the same access to STEM education due to language barriers. Many STEM concepts do not have well-developed or well-known American Sign Language (ASL) signs to describe the concept accurately.

Further, many DHH individuals do not have access to ASL interpreters who are also experts in STEM disciplines. Using an interdisciplinary model, we created physics educational videos using conceptually-accurate ASL. The videos were shared with DHH students, professors, and interpreters to use in the university physics classroom. Preliminary data demonstrates that DHH college students can learn physics concepts from the educational videos. We will discuss what we have learned so far as well as next steps.

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