Accessible Astronomy: Policies, Practices, and Strategies to Increase Participation of Astronomers with Disabilities

Alicia Aarnio, Nicholas Murphy, Karen Knierman, Wanda Diaz Merced, Alan Strauss, Sarah Tuttle, Jacqueline Monkiewicz, Adam Burgasser, Lia Corrales, Mia Sauda Bovill, Jason Nordhaus, Allyson Bieryla, Patrick Young, Jake Noel-Storr, Jennifer Cash, Nicole Cabrera Salazar, Hyunseop Choi

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    One outcome of the 2015 Inclusive Astronomy conference was the establishment of
    an accessibility/disability advocacy group within professional, US-based astronomy,
    organized by a coalition of disabled astronomers and allies and is supported by the
    American Astronomical Society (AAS). While the Working Group on Accessibility and
    Disability (WGAD) has focused on AAS-led initiatives to increase the accessibility of
    publications, databases, and professional meetings, there is an urgent need to
    expand these accessibility efforts beyond the professional society and into the wider
    astronomical community. Our long-term goals include proactively designing learning
    and working environments to be as accessible as possible, the removal of existing
    physical, technological, and pedagogical barriers to access, and provision of greater
    support for the career progress, promotion, and retention of disabled astronomers
    and educators. Progress toward these goals can be made by establishing and then
    sustaining a culture of inclusion in which all identities and intersections of identity
    are equally represented, while recognizing that progress which liberates one
    identity group may not liberate another in the same way. In the decades since the
    passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), it has become clear that
    academic departments and research institutions will only undertake the necessary
    cultural and infrastructure changes if motivated by clear guidelines from funding
    organizations or ADA non-compliance lawsuits.

    In this white paper, we outline the major barriers to access within the educational
    and professional practice of astronomy. We present current best practices for
    inclusivity and accessibility, including classroom practices, institutional culture,
    support for infrastructure creation, hiring processes, and outreach initiatives. We
    present specific ways—beyond simple compliance with the ADA—that funding agencies, astronomers, and institutions can work together to make astronomy as a
    field more accessible, inclusive, and equitable. In particular, funding agencies
    should include the accessibility of institutions during proposal evaluation, hold
    institutions accountable for inaccessibility, and support efforts to gather data on the
    status and progress of astronomers and astronomy students with disabilities.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages16
    Publication statusPublished - 12-Jul-2019


    • disabilities
    • Research
    • academic

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