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Persons With Disabilities

The number of science and engineering doctorates earned by people who reported that they had disabilities was very small in 1992, only 280, barely more than 1 percent of the total science and engineering doctoral degrees awarded. Two hundred forty of the science and engineering doctorates earned by people with disabilities were earned in science fields (1.3 percent of the total science doctorates), and only 40 were earned in engineering (0.7 percent of the total). (See appendix table 7-30.) Nevertheless, the reported 1992 total represented an increase over 1988, when only 231 persons earning science and engineering doctorates reported having a disability. [2]
The kinds of disabilities reported by science and engineering doctorate recipients have changed over time in several significant ways. First, the percentage of doctorate recipients who reported having a disability identified as orthopedic dropped from 33 percent in 1988 to 19 percent in 1992. (See appendix table 7-31.) As was seen with other surveys in which respondents were requested to identify their disabilities, the percentage who reported having "other" disabilities rose from 23 percent in 1988 to 39 percent 4 years later. This category could account for a large portion of the change. It may indicate that broader views now characterize the concept of disability as well as that the number of persons receiving doctorates who have less apparent disabilities (e.g., learning disabilities, health-related disabilities) is growing.
Types of disabilities may affect the possibilities for advanced study. Suitable accommodation of disabilities in doctoral education may vary by field, also. Science fields are more frequently chosen for doctoral study by persons with disabilities than engineering. Almost 86 percent of persons with disabilities receiving doctorates in science and engineering received them in science, compared with 78 percent of all science and engineering doctorate recipients. Agricultural/biological sciences (chosen by 25 percent of recipients with disabilities), physical sciences (19 percent), and psychology (18 percent) were the most popular fields. (See appendix table 7-32.) Only 14 percent of the persons with disabilities who earned doctoral degrees in science and engineering earned their degrees in engineering, compared with 22 percent of all science and engineering doctorate recipients. Sufficient data on doctoral students with disabilities have not been collected, making it impossible to compare their interests, goals, and abilities with their field choices. (See figures 7-19 and 7-20.)

Figure 7-19
Figure 7-20

The racial/ethnic distribution of persons with disabilities holding doctorates in science and engineering parallels the racial/ethnic distribution of all of those who hold such degrees, with one exception. Asians earned 29 percent of all doctorates in science and engineering in 1992. They constitute only 18 percent of the persons with disabilities earning doctorates in science and engineering. (See appendix table 7-33.)
The process of earning a doctorate is generally longer for those with disabilities than those without. Almost half of all graduate students with disabilities spend more than 10 years completing their doctorates; only a third of all graduate students in science and engineering spend as long. (See figure 7-21.)

Figure 7-21


2. The question asking doctoral recipients whether they had a disability was somewhat more restrictive in 1988 than in 1992, so some of this increase may be attributable to respondents' interpretation of the question rather than to actual increases. Changes in the willingness of respondents to identify themselves as having a disability may also account for some of this increase over time. Up arrow
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