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Working Group on Accessibility and Disability (WGAD)


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.


To be determined.

Committee members

  • Alicia Aarnio, Chair (Jan 2017 - Jan 2020)
    University of North Carolina, Greensboro
    PO Box 26170
    Greensboro, NC 27402-6170 United States
    Fax: 336-334-5865
  • Wanda Liz Diaz-Merced, Chair (Jan 2016 - Jan 2020)
    Office of Astronomy for Development
    60 Garden St
    Cambridge, MA 02138 United States
    (787) 919-1947