Breaking Down Barriers in STEM
Yujia Ding is a scientist, educator, mentor, and disability advocate. She is currently wrapping up her Doctor of Education where her work is centered around making STEM accessible to all, including individuals with disabilities. She is motivated by her personal and professional experiences to create a world where individuals with disabilities are not overlooked because of their differences. Rather, she hopes to create a future where differences are embraced, where differences are encouraged. This video captures a brief overview of her journey and shares a story of a former student who inspires this work.
Hi all! Thank you for coming to view my video. Please feel free to leave any thoughts, comments, and questions! I'm also open to suggestions :)
This is very exciting as the event ends on the day of my dissertation defense! This has been a long journey and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel reminds me to keep pushing and to never give up. I feel I am at mile 25 of a marathon. Yes, it's the final stretch. I know that feeling all too well - its mile 25 and the end is in sight, yet the last 1.2 miles seems impossible.
While running the New York Marathon this past Sunday (November 6, 2022), I was hurting physically. My body was shutting down, yet I pushed until the end. Crossing the finish line and getting the medal placed on your neck is a rewarding feeling. This was my 9th marathon and the feeling is still as great as the first time. This is my final stretch of my educational journey.
Thank you for all your support!
Yujia + Griffey
Running through Barriers
Thanks for the inspiration!
In reply to Running through Barriers by Sharon Delesbore
Hooray, soon-to-be-Dr. Ding!
Hi there, Yujia,
I am grateful to you and G. for sharing your story -- and your student for sharing hers, too! Access includes rethinking how our "culture(s) of STEM" have engaged, trained, and retained STEM professionals, and you've clearly already made a difference in fighting ableism and creating engaging STEM learning experiences that emphasize belonging.
I'm curious about what you've found to be high-leverage practices for educators when creating inclusive spaces that encourage collaboration and contribution across difference. What tips do you have for classroom teachers?
Thanks for this window into what you do! :) Kirstin
In reply to Hooray, soon-to-be-Dr. Ding! by Kirstin Milks
Thank you so much Kirstin!…
Thank you so much Kirstin! Your words are so kind!
In terms of best practices for creating an inclusive space, I take advantage of having a service dog so I walk the space and see how I navigate it myself. This helps with the placement of the physical space in the classroom to make sure the room is easily navigated. In terms of encouraging collaboration, I let my students work together and observe when the school year starts. I try to create activities where the kids will work with different groups, maybe rotations or stations, so the kids work with everyone and cannot choose who they want to work with.
It does help that I use my service dog to my advantage, where I tell the kids to look past differences and I ask them, what do you think of me when you first see me. I do this at the beginning of the school year so they can talk about their judgements and perceptions of me as an individual with a service dog. This lets me create a safe space at the start and start to cultivate the type of classroom culture I want - a safe space to talk about our thoughts and feelings without judgment. Doing this at the very start of the year, I find, has helped me in the long run to make sure my students work with everyone and see past differences.
Otherwise, I know that UDL (universal design for learning) has many techniques and moving forward, I hope to explore more and really incorporate those techniques as UDL is really good about making the classroom accessible for all, not just for individuals with disabilities.
I hope that answered the question. Let me know if you have any more questions!
In reply to Thank you so much Kirstin!… by Yujia Ding
Wonderful! (And three cheers…
Wonderful! (And three cheers for UDL - that's worth me taking another look through now that we are past the time of quarantine.) Thank you :)
In reply to Wonderful! (And three cheers… by Kirstin Milks
Of course! Thank you for the…
Of course! Thank you for the comment again! Hope my response was helpful!
I truly enjoyed your video. You are an inspiration! It is good to know that another person with a disability is striving and proving that we can educate others to see past our difference and accept them without judgment.
In reply to Thank You! by Diana Aston
Thank you for your kind…
Thank you for your kind words!!
Thank you for sharing the importance of equitable access to STEM education for all. We need educators to understand your valuable message and apply it in their STEM classrooms.
In reply to Equity by Florence Falatko
Thank you for your kind…
Thank you for your kind words!!
How would you redesign physical space to increase accessibility?
Thank you for sharing your story and congratulations on your educational dissertation!!
I wonder, if a school were to remodel a science classroom/ wing, how would you design the physical science classroom space to increase accessibility?
In reply to How would you redesign physical space to increase accessibility? by Elegan Kramer
Thank you so much! The…
Thank you so much!
The easiest start to make a science/STEM space accessible is to ensure there is space between the benches that students work at when conducting experiments. My experience working in a tier one university research laboratory for many years is that the benches are placed close together that make navigating the space very difficult. It is especially difficult for someone in a wheelchair or a walker, for example to move around safely.
Another easy fix is to make sure that the lab benches are of adjustable height to accommodate individuals in a wheelchair or someone who may have a height difference than the average statue (i.e. an individual with dwarfism). The adjustable height benches are a quick fix that can be used to make sure everyone can access the work bench.
The other big fix is to make sure the safety shower and eye wash station is accessible to someone in a wheelchair or who may have a physical limitation. The safety shower in my research lab was easily accessible but was not easily used (in the sense that you could access it with a wheelchair but the handle was too high for someone sitting in a wheelchair to use). Eye wash stations are the worst in labs as they often are tucked in a corner at the back of a sink that even someone who is of average stature cannot reach!
Finally, in a hallway or a corridor, you can have doors that are wider to accommodate a wheelchair. You can have automatic doors or push buttons to open the door. There can also be ramps instead of stairs.
These are a few quick fixes that can make a lab space much more accessible! There are other small changes in the equipment used to support making STEM accessible and I’m happy to chat more.
I hope that helps! Let me know if you have any other questions or concerns!
In reply to Thank you so much! The… by Yujia Ding
Excited to share this with my community
My district's community voted to pass a no-tax increase bond issue yesterday (Hooray!) And part of the bond includes some classroom science renovations - So I'm excited to share these suggestions in the planning/design meetings and to ensure students with disabilities have a voice. What I like about these suggestions is that they are great for ALL students :)
In reply to Excited to share this with my community by Elegan Kramer
Wow! Thank you for sharing…
Wow! Thank you for sharing that! I'd love to connect further and chat if you are willing! You can send me a message through this platform (if you can, I'm new to this so I'm not sure!). I'd love to share my dissertation with you and your team.
I can be reached at email@example.com.
More than meets the eye.
Have had good eye sight for most of the life, (Thankful). But now that I am getting older I am losing it. It is so frustrating. Because I used to "see it" now I can not. That does not mean I can not do the work, or interpret the data, or make powerful and meaningful conclusions. I just means that my eyes can not pull the data off the paper,
It has really giving me the understanding, the mind is not defined by the body,
You have a powerful mind and so do all those you support.
In reply to More than meets the eye. by Andrew Frisch
Thank you for your comment…
Thank you for your comment. I hope you find ways to keep pushing forward and not limit yourself despite the change in eyesight!
Your student and your story…
Your student and your story are inspirational! I can understand how she has become your WHY. Teaching is such a natural development after studying Science, and I applaud you for the amazing marathon finishes that you have achieved, especially the Doctorate! Congratulations, and keep inspiring all those around you.
In reply to Your student and your story… by Rebecca Cummings
Thank you very much!! I…
Thank you very much!! I really appreciate the support! I hope to continue inspiring others and do the work necessary to make sure that the world is accessible to all so we can let all skills and talent shine through.