The SciAccess Initiative was founded in 2018 to inspire, develop, and promote innovative approaches to equitable science access.
In the United States, careers surrounding science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, the STEM fields, are some of the most rapidly growing, as well as the most lucrative job opportunities. However, the 26% of Americans who live with disabilities often find themselves excluded from these careers, unable to access the skills and education required. Founded by Ohio State graduate Anna Voelker in 2018, the initiative began through the OSU President’s Prize, a $100k award for innovative projects that champion social change. From there, it has developed into three branches: the conference, the mentorship, and the working group.
The SciAccess Conference brings together a diverse community of researchers, professionals, students, educators, employers, and disability rights advocates, whose shared knowledge and ideas are critical to increasing skills, knowledge, and opportunities in STEM fields for individuals with disabilities.
The inaugural SciAccess Conference in June 2019—supported, hosted, and made possible by OSU—brought together 250 attendees and featured over 60 speakers. In 2020, the SciAccess Conference was hosted as a virtual event, and it was clear that demand for the conference was growing.
Registrations reached over 1,000 people from 46 nations and all seven continents. This growth would not have been possible without the unwavering support of OSU, which sponsored the virtual 2020 event through the Department of Astronomy. In 2021, we will take a blended approach, with 300 in-person attendees, and an expected 700 online participants, making it a bigger and more accessible conference than ever before. For more information about our upcoming conference, check out our 2021 page.
The SciAccess Zenith Mentorship Program began in the fall of 2020 as a collaboration between Anna Voelker, The Ohio State University, and the Ohio State School for the Blind (OSSB). Zenith began with sixteen 8th-12th grade blind and visually impaired (BVI) students from schools for the blind across the United States and Australia, with each mentee matched to an undergraduate or graduate student from Ohio State to work with throughout the semester-long program. In the Spring of 2021, the program will transition into a student organization with SciAccess research students Michaela Deming and Caitlin O’Brien as president and vice-president, respectively. To learn more about this student-led initiative, including information on how to become a mentor or sign your child up as a mentee, please visit our mentorship page.