Supporting STEM graduate students with dis/abilities: Opportunities for Universal Design for Learning
While little is known about the enrollment and retention rates of STEM graduate students, studies indicate that the way higher education generally approaches STEM graduate programs overlooks and excludes individuals with dis/abilities. This research examines the experiences of STEM graduate students with non-apparent (also called “invisible”) dis/abilities as related through the lens of critical dis/ability theory. In this paper, we review the findings from the first phase of a larger study through the lens of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). We used Harvey’s interview process to explore the experiences of two STEM graduate students who self-identify as having “invisible” dis/abilities or “different abilities” through a progressive series of interviews. In this paper, we review a selection of the participant’s experiences and provide recommendations on how UDL can be implemented to overcome the barriers graduate students may be facing in their coursework, research, and advising. We provide these recommendations in an effort to create a more inclusive and welcoming environment for all graduate students. Further, we hope that our research findings help individuals serving university students at any level in any discipline ask what opportunities they have to create a more inclusive and welcoming environment through the tenants of UDL.