How Accessible Are the Geosciences? a Study of Professionally Held Perceptions and What They Mean for the Future of Geoscience Workforce Development

Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 8:00 AM
Christopher Atchison, University of Cincinnati Main Campus, Cincinnati, OH, United States and Julie C Libarkin, Michigan State University, Natural Science Building; Department of Geological Sciences, East Lansing, MI, United States
Individuals with disabilities are not entering pathways leading to the geoscience workforce; the reasons for which continue to elude access-focused geoscience educators. While research has focused on barriers individuals face entering into STEM disciplines, very little research has considered the role that practitioner perceptions play in limiting access and accommodation to scientific disciplines. The authors argue that changing the perceptions within the geoscience community is an important step to removing barriers to entry into the myriad fields that make up the geosciences.

This paper reports on an investigation of the perceptions that geoscientist practitioners hold about opportunities for engagement in geoscience careers for people with disabilities. These perspectives were collected through three separate iterations of surveys at three professional geoscience meetings in the US and Australia between 2011 and 2012. Respondents were asked to indicate the extent to which individuals with specific types of disabilities would be able to perform various geoscientific tasks.

The information obtained from these surveys provides an initial step in engaging the larger geoscience community in a necessary discussion of minimizing the barriers of access to include students and professionals with disabilities. The results imply that a majority of the geoscience community believes that accessible opportunities exist for inclusion regardless of disability. This and other findings suggest that people with disabilities are viewed as viable professionals once in the geosciences, but the pathways into the discipline are prohibitive. Perceptions of how individuals gain entry into the field are at odds with perceptions of accessibility. This presentation will discuss the common geoscientist perspectives of access and inclusion in the geoscience discipline and how these results might impact the future of the geoscience workforce pathway for individuals with disabilities.