Persons With Disabilities
- Opportunities to Learn and Decisions to Study Science, Mathematics, and
- Achievement and Accomplishments
Approximately 12 percent of all students receive special services in federally
supported special education programs. By far the largest group of these students,
45 percent, have specific learning disabilities. The next largest group, 20
percent of the total with disabilities, have speech or language impairments, and
about 1 percent each have orthopedic, hearing, other impairments, or multiple
Instructional settings may require special equipment or environments for science
education. Thus the instructional settings for students with disabilities are of
particular importance. Students with speech or language impairments are most
likely to be served in regular classrooms, with nearly 80 percent receiving their
instruction in these settings, and an additional 14 percent receiving assistance
in resource rooms, so that a total of 94 percent of these students have access to
science instruction similar to that of their classmates. Similar combinations of
instructional environments are available to 86 percent of students with learning
disabilities; 67 percent with visual impairments; 52 percent with orthopedic
impairments; and 47 percent with hearing impairments.
Transition to Higher Education
The percentage of full-time students entering college who report having
disabilities has increased, from 7 percent in 1985 to 9 percent in 1991. Most of
this increase occurred in the category "learning disabilities." Percentages of
students with other disabilities stayed relatively constant.
Two-year institutions serve many students with disabilities. More than half (59
percent) of the students beginning their first year of study in higher education
in 1991 who reported a learning disability were studying at 2-year institutions.
Undergraduate Education Choice of Field
Field of study varied for students with disabilities. Students with disabilities
constituted a higher proportion of planned majors in physical sciences (14
percent), computer science, and civil engineering (12 percent in each) than they
did in mathematics and economics (5 percent and 4 percent, respectively).
Transition to Higher Education
The performance of students who reported a disability was slightly lower than that
of those who reported no disability. The average SAT score in mathematics for
students who reported having a disability was 434, compared with 482 for students
reporting no disability.
The number of science and engineering doctorates earned by people who reported
that they had disabilities was 280 in 1992, barely more than 1 percent of the
total science and engineering doctoral degrees awarded.
Employment Levels and Trends
About 20 percent of the population have some disability.  These disabilities
may or may not require accommodation or limit an individual's ability to
participate in educational experiences or to be productive in an occupation.
Approximately 10 percent of the total labor force, and 3 percent of the science
and engineering labor force, have some disability.
Doctoral scientists and engineers with disabilities, overall, appear to be
equivalent to those without disabilities in terms of unemployment and
underemployment rates, median salaries, academic rank, and tenure. However,
because of the usual later onset of a disability, doctoral scientists and
engineers with disabilities have more work experience than their colleagues
without disabilities. In comparing persons with disabilities and those without
disabilities, while holding constant years of experience, persons with
disabilities have median salaries somewhat lower than those without disabilities.
5. Estimates of the proportion of the population with disabilities vary. See
Technical Notes for discussions of the measurement issues related to this group.