STEM and Disability Symposium

Lessons for Greater Inclusion

An event for STEM Teachers (Gr. 7-12), High School personnel, resource teachers, guidance counsellors, special ed. workers

Objective: To broaden participation of persons with disabilities in STEM fields through dialogue and increase knowledge of the strategies to respond to perceived barriers in STEM


Monday, February 22, 2021/ 11:00 AM – 12:30 AM (LIVE ONLINE SESSION)

  • 11:00 AM – 11:30 AM Welcome and Introductions

Tina Doyle, Director, AccessAbility Services, University of Toronto Scarborough & Chair, Ontario AODA Postsecondary Education Standard Development Committee

Dr. Maydianne Andrade, Special Advisor to the Dean (Inclusive Recruitment & Equity Education) President Canadian Black Scientists Network

  • 11:30 AM – 12:15 PM Keynote Speaker

Dr. Mahadeo Sukhai, Co-Principal, IDEA-STEM & Head of Research and Chief Accessibility and Inclusion Officer, CNIB

Copy of Dr. Sukhai's Presentation [PDF]

  • 12:15 PM – 12:30PM Symposium Overview

Ainsley Latour, Co-Principal, IDEA-STEM & Researcher, CNIB



Pre-Recorded Sessions 

Playlist (YouTube)

Note: All videos will be provided with captions and audio transcripts.

Introduction by Hon. Raymond Sung Joon Cho, MInister Seniors and Accessibility of Ontario

Introduction by Hon. Raymond Sung Joon Cho Video Transcript (PDF)


1. Student Perspective: Considering needs of students on the autism spectrum and mental health disabilities in STEM

Jennifer Sinclair, BSc (Biology), BA (English)

Students who are on the autism spectrum may experience a variety of challenges in STEM learning.  In an interview with recent University of Toronto graduate, Jennifer Sinclair, this session will discuss some of the challenges students with autism may experience in the virtual classroom and during hands on STEM activities.  Suggestions for effective accommodations are explored, including the identification of specific social skills to support communication in the classroom.  Notes from this session are provided in a handout.

Handout: Supporting Students with Autism in STEM (PDF)

Student Perspective: considering needs of students on the autism spectrum and mental health disabilities in STEM Video Transcript (PDF)


2. STEM Lab Assistants as Accommodation Solutions for Students with Disabilities in STEM

Dr. Mahadeo Sukhai, Co-Principal, IDEA-STEM & Head of Research and Chief Accessibility and Inclusion Officer, CNIB

Ainsley Latour, Co-Principal, IDEA-STEM & Researcher, CNIB

In this session, the presenters introduce the concept of assistants as an accommodation in STEM, considerations teachers may want to think about when implementing this accommodation, and the benefits of an assistant in the classroom.  

Laboratory assistants are human beings who provide assistance to students with disabilities during STEM learning activities and labs.  The role of a lab assistant could be performed by an educational assistant, itinerant teacher, parent, sibling, or student peer.  Where the curriculum expectation is to design an experiment or interpret the outcome of an experiment, the use of a lab assistant does not change the student’s ability to achieve the curriculum expectation of the course.  This session will introduce the concept of laboratory assistants as accommodation solutions in STEM.  Using examples relevant to high school science, we will discuss who can be in the role of a laboratory assistant, and the benefits of using a lab assistant as an accommodation for students with disabilities.  We also suggest benefits for a student’s peers when they serve as lab assistants. 

STEM Lab Assistants as Accommodation Solutions Video Transcript (PDF)


3. Robotics as Accessibility Solutions in STEM

Robotics as Accessibility Solutions in STEM with Described Video

Dr. Ronald Soong, Senior Research Associate/NMR Facility, Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences

In this session, Dr. Ronald Soong demonstrates how robotics can be used to assist students with disabilities perform labs in STEM classrooms.  Using examples from high school chemistry, viewers will learn about the parts, sources of these parts, and cost to build their own robots for the laboratory.

Robotics as Accessibility Solutions in STEM Video Transcript (PDF)


4. Accessible Interactive Simulations for Inclusive STEM learning

Dr. Emily Moore and the PhET Team, University of Boulder Colorado

In this session, Dr. Emily Moore introduces teachers to the PhET Interactive Simulations Project, which began in 2002. This project is best known for its collection of over 150 FREE science and mathematics stimulations on the PhET website. The PhET project also includes research around educational technology, STEM learning and accessibility.  These simulations can be accessed on a variety of devices and platforms. The simulations are also available in over 90 different languages.  In 2014, Dr. Moore began a project to make these simulations accessible to those students with disabilities.  The PhET simulations are designed to be inclusive and accessible to a diverse population. In this session, we will view examples of simulations from the PhET project, and learn about the additional resources available to STEM educators through the project. Some of these resources include a community of over 5,000 teachers, classroom activities, and facilitation guides.

Accessible Interactive Simulations for Inclusive STEM Learning Video Transcript (PDF)


5. Accessible Science Outreach, SciACCESS Network

Anna Voelker, Astronomy Accessibility Program Coordinator, Ohio State University and the Chair of the Astronomers Without Borders Accessibility and Inclusion Working Group

Co-presented with astronomy students Michaela Deming and Caitlin O’Brien from Ohio State University

This session introduces the background of SciACCESS and accommodations for students with disabilities in STEM.

SciAccess is an organization that has an international, virtually accessible mentoring program for students with vision loss who are interested in astronomy. They also hold a two day conferences and webinars focused on making astronomy accessible for all.  SciAccess regularly shares news and updates about initiatives through their social media platforms.  This session will provide background on the SciAccess conference as well as information on accessible events.  The session will also discuss a variety of accommodations for making space science accessible for students.

Handout: SciAccess Session Links (PDF)

Accessible Science Outreach Video Transcript (PDF)


6. Cross Sensory Inclusive Design for STEM: Co-Design of Non Visual Representations for Visually Impaired Students

Dr. Peter Coppin, Graduate Program Director, Associate Professor, Director, Perceptual Artifacts Lab, Faculty of Design, Graduate Studies, OCA

In this session, Dr. Peter Coppin discusses the theory and processes behind inclusive design and co-design of models that give a non-visual representation of a concept.  He begins by making a case for the need for tactile models for those with vision loss, using a line graph as an example.  He differentiates between iconic and symbolic representation of concepts, and gives examples of each type of representation.  He shows examples of how concepts such as a painting, soccer game, and globe can all be represented in tactile structures.  He also illustrates why a tactile representation of some of these examples is more complete and instructive than using descriptive language (an example of symbolic representation) alone to describe it.  All students may benefit from alternative representations of concepts, as multiple exposures to information may help with retention.  Using Dr. Coppin’s examples, we know that not all characteristics of a concept can be fully understood using descriptive language, or by relying on visual and symbolic representation of the concept.  Asking students to create models using sound, tactile or other non-visual representations will help students learn.  Students could then analyze the visual vs a tactile, language or sound (non-language) based model in order to determine the strengths and weaknesses of each model to represent the idea.  

Cross Sensory Inclusive Design for STEM Video Transcript (PDF)


7. 3D Printing in STEM education

Caroline Karbowski, CEO and Founder, See3D Printing for the Blind; 3rd year Biology and Chemistry Student, Ohio State University

In this session, the presenter will introduce the concept of using tactile models to support students with vision loss or whose preferred method of learning is tactile.Participants are encouraged to reflect on how using 3D models can help all learners.

Students with vision loss have generally been discouraged from pursuing science education.In this session, Caroline Karbowski introduces the concept of 3D printing to generate tactile models to facilitate science education for students with vision loss.Caroline is the founder of See3D, a non-profit organization that organizes the printing and distribution of 3D printed models throughout the world.Caroline introduces us to a variety of 3D models with applications in biology, earth science, engineering, physics and math.Since both teachers and parents are able to make requests for models, we encourage educators to consider broader ways that 3D models can be used in the classroom to facilitate learning for all students.Some ideas for how teachers could enrich STEM learning for all students using tactile modes could include:asking students to make a 3D model, asking students to describe a 3D model in words, a comparison activity of a 3D model and an image for a given concept, or asking students to write about how they might design a 3D model (a written or oral proposal).

Handout: See3D Resources and Presentation Links (PDF)

3D Printing in STEM Education Video Transcript (PDF)


Other Related Resources

Transition Resource Guide

Grade 12 to post-secondary: Transitions during COVID-19


University of Toronto Scarborough Library – Makerspace contact: Elizabeth O’Brian for basic 3D prints to support accessibility needs in your classroom


U of T AccessAbility Services Office Contact Information


Thursday, February 25, 2021/ 11:00 AM – 12:30 AM (LIVE ONLINE SESSION)

  • 11:00 AM – 11:20 AM Welcome
  • 11:20 AM – 12:20 PM Panel

Moderator, Colleen Reid, Associate Director, AccessAbility Services, University of Toronto Scarborough


- Dr. Mahadeo Sukhai, Co-Principal, IDEA-STEM & Head of Research and Chief Accessibility and Inclusion Officer, CNIB

- Ainsley Latour, Co-Principal, IDEA-STEM & Researcher, CNIB

- Dr. Ronald Soong, Senior Research Associate/NMR Facility, Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences

- Jennifer Sinclair, BSc (Biology), BA (English), Former UTSC Student

- Tina Doyle, Director, AccessAbility Services, University of Toronto Scarborough

  • 12:20 PM – 12:30 PM  Symposium Closing

Tina Doyle, Director, AccessAbility Services, University of Toronto Scarborough & Chair, Ontario AODA Postsecondary Education Standard Development Committee


Access Information

Live events hosted on Zoom.  Real-Time Captioning (CART) and Sign-Language Interpreting (SLI) provided. Video content hosted on YouTube with captions. We strive to make all of our gatherings inclusive.  If accommodations may be required, please contact


If you require assistance or have any questions, please contact 416-287-7560 or 

STEM and Disability Speaker Bios

Dr. Mahadeo Sukhai is the world’s first congenitally blind biomedical research scientist. Mahadeo is Head of Research and Chief Accessibility and Inclusion Officer for the CNIB, having previously served as a research scientist at the University Health Network in Toronto. Dr. Sukhai's current research program relates to understanding social determinants of health and quality of life of Canadians with sight loss. Dr. Sukhai was the Principal Investigator for and co-author of "Creating a Culture of Accessibility in the Sciences," a book based on his groundbreaking work on access to science within higher education, published on, and served as the principal investigator for national projects to understand the student experience for persons with disabilities, and to examine the landscape of accessibility within Canadian post-secondary education.

Professor Andrade earned her Ph.D. in Neurobiology and Behavior at Cornell University and is a Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC) and Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at UT St. George. As a Canada Research Chair in Integrative Behavioural Ecology (2007 to 2018), Fellow of the Animal Behaviour society, and elected member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, Professor Andrade’s fundamental research has a primarily focus on the evolution of mating behaviour and species diversity, using black widow spiders as models.

Since 2014, she has also been engaged in knowledge translation with respect to the effects of bias on fair assessment, inclusion, and career progression in academia. In 2019 she was awarded the Ludwik and Estelle Jus Memorial Human Rights Prize by the University of Toronto's Alumni Association in recognition of the impact of her work, including founding and acting as co-Chair of TIDE (the Toronto Initiative for Diversity and Excellence).

As Vice Dean Faculty Affairs & Equity for UTSC (Jan 2017-Dec 2020) and Special Advisor on Inclusive Recruitment and Equity Education (Jan 2021- present), Prof. Andrade promotes the hiring, retention and success of a diverse and inclusive faculty, and fosters a positive and productive working environment for faculty at UTSC through mentorship and development progams.

In Fall 2020, she joined with other faculty from across Canada to create the Canadian Black Scientists Network, for which she is currently serving as President. A strong proponent of outreach and public communication to encourage broad engagement in science and equity, Prof. Andrade has served as a guest on CBC radio, hosted an episode of The Nature of Things (First Animals), and most recently has partnered with U of T Communications to create the podcast The New Normal.

Ainsley Latour is a deeply passionate educator and scientist.  She started her career as an Ontario trained teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, but now works as a clinical genetic technologist, and a researcher at CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind).  She also has recently submitted her masters thesis for examination through Memorial University of Newfoundland in molecular ecology, where she was part of the Dean’s Advisory Committee for Students with Disabilities.  She co-authored chapters in Dr. Sukhai’s book “Creating a Culture of Accessibility in the Sciences” on inclusive education and the student-supervisor relationship.  She has been a leader within the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association’s Young Adult Network. 


Tina Doyle is the Director of AccessAbility Services at the University of Toronto Scarborough (Canada). She advocates to include the voices of people with disabilities in services and has published on the perspectives of students with disabilities on inclusive teaching practices. 

Tina also provides consultation services on physical accessibility at the University of Toronto, working with the building project teams including architects, builders, users, and the university planning, design and construction team. She was involved in the construction of a new $65 million research facility for Environmental Science & Chemistry. Along with the National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS) project team, Tina also created resources which explored the barriers, solutions and accommodations for creating an accessible science laboratory environment for the Council of Ontario Universities.

She is the Past Chair of the Inter-University Disability Issues Association (I.D.I.A.), the provincial body of university disability service providers in Ontario, is the current Chair of the Government of Ontario’s AODA Postsecondary Education Standard Development Committee, and is a member of the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council on Accessibility, an advisory body to the Minister for Seniors and Accessibility.

Tina completed the Graduate Certificate Program in Postsecondary Disability Services at the University of Connecticut and holds a Master of Science in Disability Services in Higher Education.

Caroline Karbowski is from Cincinnati, Ohio and is a third-year undergraduate double majoring in biology and chemistry, and minoring in education and American Sign Language at The Ohio State University. Her passion for 3D printing for people who are blind started with her desire to learn braille in 6th grade so she could read books in the car without becoming dizzy. After seeing how 3D printing could be used to make telescope and microscope images tactile, she became inspired to create See3D, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit which organizes the printing and distribution of 3D printed models for the blind. Caroline has given a TEDx talk, been a guest twice on BlindAbilities, published in the Journal of Science Education for Students with Disabilities, and presented at the CSUN Assistive Technology Conference. She hopes by making the world more accessible, more people will be able to provide their unique perspectives which will benefit the learning of all.


Dr. Ronald Soong received his Hon. B.Sc. (2003) and Ph. D (2008) in Chemistry from the University of Toronto.  After completing his Postdoctoral Training at the University of Michigan, he returned to the city of Toronto and accepted a Senior Research Associate position at the University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC) in 2010. During his time at the UTSC, he has developed an interest in open-source technology and their application in the teaching laboratory with focus on accessibility and reducing economic barriers in the classroom.  His work has recently generated 4 publications in the Journal of Chemical Education and was a recipient of the Instructional Technology Innovation Fund (ITIF) in 2017. He is currently working on a variety of projects aim to introduce different open-source technology in both teaching and undergraduate research laboratory, bringing out the Maker spirt in his students.


Dr. Peter Coppin is an Associate Professor of Design at OCAD University. He is a core Program Faculty member in the Master of Design (MDes) in Inclusive Design program where he runs the first and second-year Inclusive Design Laboratory courses and serves as Principal Advisor for a number of graduate student Major Research Projects. During his PhD, Coppin developed a perceptual-cognitive model for understanding how graphics afford actions, a theme that cuts across inclusive design, human-computer interface design, visual art-design, and learning technology research. Previously Coppin developed –remote experiences"by creating systems that delivered data from remote rovers operating in extreme environments to science teams and the general public. He developed this work as Principal Investigator and Director of the NASA funded EventScope Project at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). At CMU Coppin also directed the BigSignal Project, one of the first telescience interfaces for educational audiences.


Anna Voelker is the Coordinator of Outreach Programs for The Ohio State University Department of Astronomy and the Center for Cosmology and AstroParticle Physics (CCAPP). Anna graduated from The Ohio State University in 2018 with a self-designed degree in Science Communication and Accessibility and a minor in Astronomy and Astrophysics. In 2018, they received the OSU President’s Prize, a $100,000 award for projects that foster social change. Anna used this funding to launch SciAccess, an international initiative designed to promote disability inclusion in STEM. Anna hosted the inaugural SciAccess Conference at Ohio State in 2019, bringing together 250 attendees from around the world and featuring over 60 speakers who shared their expertise in science accessibility. In 2020, the SciAccess Conference went virtual and had over 1,000 registrations from 46 nations and all seven continents. In February 2021, Anna will begin a PhD in Astrobiology Education at the Open University.


Michaela Deming is a fifth-year undergraduate at The Ohio State University studying Astronomy and Astrophysics. She got her start in accessible outreach as a member of the Ohio State Department of Astronomy’s 2020 Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP), working on the virtual SciAccess 2020 Conference. Michaela helped found the SciAccess Zenith Mentorship Program, which connects blind and low vision students to mentors in space science fields, before becoming President of Zenith in October 2020. She is also an active member of the Astronomical Society at Ohio State. Her other work in astronomy outreach includes volunteering as a telescope operator at the Smith Lab Observatory, training as a presenter at the Arne Slettebak Planetarium, and giving educational talks to audiences ranging from school-age to adult. She will graduate cum laude from Ohio State in May 2021 and plans to pursue a career in astronomy outreach.


Caitlin O’Brien is an undergraduate student at The Ohio State University majoring in Astrophysics & Astronomy and Physics. In 2019, she was named a Morill Scholar, recognizing her as a student engaged in diversity, leadership, and service. While working for the SciAccess Initiative she has contributed to numerous projects, including the SciAccess 2020 Conference— a virtual conference achieving over 1,000 registrants from 46 nations and all seven continents— and the SciAccess Zenith Mentorship Program (Zenith), which benefits blind and low-vision high school students. Caitlin helped to found Zenith and currently acts as Vice-President of the program. In addition to her work in outreach, she also serves as the President of the Astronomical Society at OSU, and a planetarium presenter at the Arne Slettebak Planetarium. She is currently working on a thesis approaching the accessible adaptation of planetarium shows.


Jennifer Sinclair (she/her) is a graduate of the University of Toronto Scarborough, with a B.A. in English and a B.Sc. in Conservation Biology. Her knowledge of accessibility in the sciences comes largely from her lived experience as an autistic person who has co-occurring mental health disabilities, as well as a chronic pain condition. She has volunteered and worked for AccessAbility assisting with orientations for incoming students, various projects, and administrative tasks during exam time. Jennifer is currently a Special Projects Assistant researching and supporting the development of a resource on accommodating students in the sciences with Tina Doyle. In addition to accessibility, Jennifer is passionate about animals and enjoys collecting a vast amount of information about dogs, as well as taking horseback riding lessons (when things aren’t in lockdown).