Title bar

Critical Incidents for Scientists and Engineers With Disabilities

Interviews were conducted with 286 persons with disabilities who were college students or were employed in science and engineering fields to ascertain the factors that had been influential in their choice and pursuit of field. [4] Employing the "critical incident technique," the study asked interviewees to describe four incidents, two negative and two positive, both recent and retrospective, that played an important part in their entry and advancement. A total of 1,280 unduplicated incidents were studied.
Natural groupings of incidents placed them into four categories, which were then further subdivided. A total of 110 types of incidents were noted. The categories, with specific types of incidents cited most frequently (i.e., by 25 persons or more), were
  1. Understanding oneself (36 percent of incidents)
    Being encouraged (or discouraged) by instructors, deans, parents, and significant others.
    Having self-satisfaction from doing good work or discouragement from poor performance.
    Receiving recognition for accomplishments.
    Having outstanding courses or teachers, including special opportunities.
    Having negative/positive advice toward field.
    Observing adult role models, mentors, parents.
  2. Seeking quality of life as an adult (25 percent of incidents)
    Dealing with work problems, stresses, and disappointment.
    Sensing personal accomplishment and making a contribution.
  3. Interacting with others (20 percent of incidents)
    Dealing with negative communication.
    Interacting with admissions officers, college counselors.
  4. Addressing barriers (18 percent of incidents)
    Coping with limitations of the disabling condition.
More specific topics cited were related to obtaining accommodations in tasks at school and work settings, dealing with requirements imposed by instructors and institutions, overcoming physical barriers, obtaining and using special equipment, and engaging in the job application process.
Responses of men and women differed. The women were more likely than men to have included an incident that related to interacting with others (75 percent of the women compared with 59 percent of the men). More men than women, 70 percent compared with 60 percent, included an incident related to addressing barriers. There was little evidence that the type of career-influencing incident was significantly related to a person's specific disability, whether it was physical or sensory/perceptual. Neither did age at onset of the disability appear to affect the choice of incidents.
4. The study Research to Identify Critical Factors Contributing to Entry and Advancement in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Fields by Disabled Persons was conducted by American Institute for Research and its subcontractor the American Association for the Advancement of Science, with support from the National Science Foundation (Grant #MDR-8751195). Results are presented in Weisgerber 1991. Up arrow
TOC buttonHelp buttonAbbreviations 
buttonNSF buttonLeft button