The two-day workshop for emerging deaf and hard-of-hearing scientists at Gallaudet University will bring together deaf and hard-of-hearing people at all stages of the science, technology, engineering, and technology (STEM) pipeline. The workshop will utilize vertical mentoring to address common challenges and barriers involved with pursuing careers in STEM for this severely underrepresented group.

Intellectual merit: This will be the first time that deaf and hard-of-hearing people who are pursuing or have obtained degrees in STEM will have the opportunity to become part of a mentoring network. Previous efforts have included all disability groups, but have never focused solely on deaf and hard-of hearing population. The workshop will be structured based on two successful models in the past for other under-represented groups: (1) vertical mentoring for women in STEM (Packard 2003, Packard & Nguyen 2003) (2) vertical mentoring workshop for the Blind in STEM ( to encourage more deaf and hard-of-hearing people to pursue scientific endeavors. Data collected before and during the workshop will result in a white paper that will contain best practices on how to include deaf and hard-of-hearing people in future NSF-funded projects.

Broader Impacts: The key broader impact is increasing the capacity of deaf and hard of hearing students to succeed in STEM fields. The number of deaf and hard-of hearing people in STEM fields is very small (0.13-0.19%) compared to the general population (11-15.3%; NSF 1996, 2004, 2009, 2011). One of the major barriers for deaf and hard-of-hearing people in STEM is communication with peers. The large communication diversity (e.g. sign language, captioning, and cued speech) within the deaf and hard-of-hearing population needs to be considered. Participants that use different modes of communication will be strongly encouraged to attend, and the appropriate service providers will be available, and information about the workshop will be disseminated through major advocacy organizations serving each type of communication mode.

Project Report

Did you know Vinton Cerf, one of the "fathers of the Internet" is hard of hearing? So was Thomas Edison. And Annie Jump Cannon, an American astronomer whose work was instrumental in the development of stellar constellations, was deaf. The contributions of Vinton Cerf, Thomas Edison, and Annie Jump Cannon are enormous. Yet very few deaf and hard of hearing people are choosing careers in science, technology, and mathematics (STEM). In the general population approximately 1 in 10 people work in STEM fields, but in the deaf and hard-of-hearing world, that figure is fewer than 1 in 100, according to the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. To address this disparity, a team of STEM professionals from Gallaudet University, Rochester Institute of Technology, University of Washington, and San Francisco State University, supported by National Science Foundation grants, conducted a workshop for emerging deaf and hard of hearing scientists in May 2012. The workshop included high school, college, and graduate students as well as K-12 educators, sign language interpreters, university professors, and government employees. The resulting white paper discusses a variety of challenges for deaf and hard of hearing scientists, including cognitive, language, and legal obstacles in the classroom and workplace, as well as a number of possible solutions, including crowd-sourcing ASL dictionaries for STEM vocabulary, innovative technology for real-time captioning, and enhanced mentoring and advocacy systems. The information is a blueprint for closing the gaps and ushering in a new era of inclusion and access for deaf and hard of hearing people in STEM fields.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB)
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Michele McGuirl
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Gallaudet University
United States
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