The GRL is pleased to announce the publication of a new paper in GEOSPHERE, a journal of the Geological Society of America. The paper, Professionally held perceptions about the accessibility of the geosciences, is co-authored by Chris Atchison and Julie Libarkin. We discuss three related studies of scientists’ perceptions of people with disabilities, as well as the implications these perceptions have for moving the geosciences towards greater inclusivity and accessibility.
The geosciences are considered by many to be inaccessible to individuals with disabilities. Challenging traditional perceptions of identity in the geoscience community is an important step to removing barriers for students and geoscientists with diverse physical, sensory, and cognitive abilities, and to broadening entry into the myriad fields that make up the discipline. Geoscientists’ views of the extent to which a disability would inhibit access to a geoscience career were probed through three separate studies. Results indicate that although opportunities for people with disabilities are perceived to exist in the geosciences, the discipline is considered more accessible to people with some disabilities than others. Most notably, people with hearing impairments are viewed as the most capable of engaging in geoscience careers, visual and cognitive impairments are considered barriers to engagement in geoscience careers or tasks, and people with physical disabilities are perceived as capable of engaging in all but outdoor tasks. We suggest that these individual perceptions result in multiple barriers for people with disabilities: perceptual barriers, training barriers, and community-level barriers. Reducing these barriers will require action across multiple levels to change individual perceptions, training pathways, and social norms for professional engagement.