Illinois State College Professor Awarded $1.5 Million NSF Grant to Enhance Science Training for Blind and Low-Imaginative and prescient College students

Dr. Natalie Shaheen, seen interacting with two students in a lab.

Dr. Natalie L. Shaheen, an assistant professor at Illinois State College, has been awarded a considerable Nationwide Science Basis (NSF) CAREER grant of over $1.5 million to handle inequities in science schooling for blind and low-vision (BLV) college students. This five-year grant, the biggest in her division in 25 years, goals to enhance accessibility in highschool science courses, notably these using know-how. Shaheen’s mission entails researching instructional disparities and growing case research with academics to create “born-accessible” science courses. Moreover, the grant will assist elevate the profile of ISU’s distinctive undergraduate program for BLV specialists, drawing nationwide consideration to its progressive strategy.

Shaheen emphasizes that whereas bodily accessibility has improved with ramps, braille signage, and push-button doorways, digital developments have paradoxically made Okay-12 schooling much less accessible for BLV college students. She factors out that know-how, usually thought of a common profit, can impede BLV college students’ studying, particularly in science schooling which has moved away from tactile strategies like dissections and bodily fashions to digital simulations. Advocating for a return to hands-on studying, Shaheen argues for proactive fairly than reactive accessibility in schooling, the place the burden of adaptation usually falls unfairly on BLV college students.

Her work is pushed by her personal experiences as a blind scholar discouraged from pursuing STEM as a consequence of inaccessible schooling. By means of her mission, Shaheen goals to make sure that BLV college students can absolutely have interaction in science with out the additional burden of negotiating entry, enabling them to spend their time studying fairly than adapting. By selling proactive accessibility, she seeks to permit BLV college students to leverage their distinctive problem-solving expertise—expertise that she believes make them wonderful scientists.

Total, Shaheen’s efforts are usually not nearly enhancing accessibility but additionally about remodeling perceptions and alternatives for BLV people in science. Her analysis and the event of assets for academics are steps towards a extra equitable schooling system the place BLV college students have the identical alternatives in STEM careers as their sighted friends. By decreasing the boundaries which have traditionally restricted BLV individuals from science careers, Shaheen’s work may have an exponential influence on the sector, benefiting from the distinctive views and expertise of BLV people.

Supply: Illinois State College, WGLT

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