Making geoscience fieldwork inclusive and accessible for students with disabilities

Alison Stokes, Anthony D. Feig, Christopher L. Atchison, Brett Gilley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Fieldwork is a fundamental characteristic of geoscience. However, the requirement to participate in fieldwork can present significant barriers to students with disabilities engaging with geoscience as an academic discipline and subsequently progressing on to a career as a geoscience professional. A qualitative investigation into the lived experiences of 15 students with disabilities participating in a one-day field workshop during the 2014 Geological Society of America Annual Meeting provides critical insights into the aspects of fieldwork design and delivery that contribute to an accessible and inclusive field experience. Qualitative analysis of pre-and post-fieldwork focus groups and direct observations of participants reveal that multisensory engagement, consideration for pace and timing, flexibility of access and delivery, and a focus on shared tasks are essential to effective pedagogic design. Further, fieldwork can support the social processes necessary for students with disabilities to become fully integrated into learning communities, while also promoting self-advocacy by providing an opportunity to develop and practice self-advocacy skills. Our findings show that students with sensory, cognitive, and physical disabilities can achieve full participation in field activities but also highlight the need for a change in perceptions among geoscience faculty and professionals, if students with disabilities are to be motivated to progress through the geoscience academic pipeline and achieve professional employment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1809-1825
Number of pages17
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019


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