Committees

Working Group on Accessibility and Disability (WGAD)

About

WGAD is tasked with promoting inclusion of and equity of opportunity for disabled astronomers at all career stages. A mindset of diverse access makes the experience of learning, working, and collaborating stronger for all. Ableism is discrimination in favor of able-bodied or neurotypical people; it is an entire system of thinking and doing that hurts disabled people and is a form of structural oppression. Disability is defined as any mental, cognitive, or physical condition that, due to society’s structure, results in a significant barrier to engaging with society.

History: 

The Working Group on Accessibility and Disability was established at the 227th Meeting, January 2016 in Kissimmee, Florida, in response to a proposal from a group of AAS members.

Members: 

Members of the working group are drawn from the community and appointed by the coordinating committee. Nominations (including self-­nominations) to serve on the working group will be accepted by the steering committee at any time.

Steering Committee: 

The working group is governed by a coordinating committee initially appointed by the AAS Board of Trustees that may include anywhere between 5 and 10 members, including two co-­chairs.

Term: 

Three years staggered, with terms beginning and ending at the close of the annual winter meeting.

Chairs: 

Chairs are nominated by the Working Group and confirmed by the AAS Board of Trustees.

Charge: 

WGAD is tasked with promoting inclusion of and equity of opportunity for disabled astronomers at all career stages. Ableism is discrimination in favor of able-­bodied or neurotypical people; it is an entire system of thinking and doing that hurts disabled people and is a form of structural oppression. Disability is defined as any mental, cognitive, or physical condition that, due to society’s structure, results in a significant barrier to engaging with society. Disabilities may be invisible or visible, and diagnosed or undiagnosed. Disablement occurs when biological and neurological realities collide with society and culture; it is not a problem located in someone’s mind or body, but in society.

Astronomy exists in the context of this society and is based in ableism. To that end, WGAD will work to:

  • Identify, document, and eliminate the barriers to access (including access to information) that impact disabled astronomers and students;
  • Actively address the intersections of ableism with racism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, and classism;
  • Increase accessibility for disabled astronomers and students;
  • Support the current professional astronomy community to bring people with disabilities into the workforce;
  • Recognize disability by teaching disability history, specifically including the disability history of astronomy;
  • Work to discourage the erasure of disability in astronomy;
  • Promote knowledge of the roots of ableism and its effects in our classrooms and workplaces to change it;
  • Change the culture within astronomy to remove the stigma associated with disability and to value accessibility as a human right;
  • Promote the development and use of access tools and software; and
  • Build community among disabled astronomers and students.

Committee Chairs

Alicia Aarnio

Chair

Term: Jan 2017 – Jan 2020

Wanda Liz Diaz-Merced

Chair

Term: Jan 2016 – Jan 2020

Committee Member

Karen A. Knierman

Term: Aug 2018 – Jun 2021