Zero Barriers in STEM Education: Accessibility and Inclusion Program

Zero Barriers in STEM Education: Accessibility and Inclusion Program

The Zero Barriers in STEM Education: Accessibility and Inclusion Program
The Smithsonian Science Education Center’s Zero Barriers in STEM Education Accessibility and Inclusion Program is an initiative focused  on increasing the prevalence of accessible and inclusive practices in STEM education and school culture for all students along the continuum of human ability.  The program convenes teams of educators representing schools, districts, and state education agencies across the US together for an education summit in Washington, D.C. to develop logic models that focus on a problem of practice related to accessible and inclusive STEM programs and school culture within their context for students with disabilities. The program also provides mid-year professional development to educators selected for the program. Please note, the Summit and all associated activities are provided at no cost to attendees. Travel and accommodations are also provided to attendees that reside outside of a 50-mile radius of the event venue.

2023 Summit: Between July 25 - 27, 2023 in Washington, D.C., teams, and their assigned mentor, work together to identify their problem and develop their plan of action to be implemented for 18 months following the summit. Developing a logic model at the summit is the first of many steps that educators take to serve as change agents in their organizations, when participating in this program. As team members build their capacity to be leaders and initiate change in their educational ecosystem, we also want them to understand the importance of engaging all stakeholders in decision-making processes, especially when addressing systemic issues. To that end, teams must also be comprised of a diverse group of individuals that operate within different areas of the organization, that include a teacher or adminstrator who has expertise in working with students with disabilities.

​Mid-Year Professional Learning: Following the Summit, selected summit teams and their mentors will be expected to participate in a virtual professional development a few months after they begin implementing their logic models. This series of workshops will focus on accessibility and other topics relevant to expanding STEM opportunities for students with disabilities.

For questions, contact: Sherrell Williams,

Ideal Team Composition  Who might serve on a leadership team? 

  • Decision-makers (school or district admin.)
  • In-service teacher
  • Instructional coach
  • Special Education Teachers
  • Parent or community partner

The goals of the Summit are to provide selected teams an opportunity to:

  • Develop a logic model that addresses a problem of practice in accessible and inclusive STEM teaching, programming, and culture in their organization. The goal is to ensure that students with disabilities see STEM as accessible to them, and that all students, no matter where they fall along the continuum of human ability, understand how to use Universal Design practices when engineering solutions to problems.
  • Collaborate with a body of peers to exchange knowledge and initiate changes that promote accessibility in STEM education for all students with disabilities in their school communities.
  • Engage with a network of STEM educators who are interested in increasing awareness and developing sustainable solutions to address accessibility concerns in STEM education.

As a result of attending the Summit participants will also:

  • Gain an understanding of the state of accessibility in education across the nation.
  • Develop leadership skills and partnerships with other educators.
  • Learn about existing organizations and communities that support educators to provide equitable STEM learning opportunities.


This program is made possible through generous funding from General Motors.

Dates and Location

Thank you for your interest. The deadline to apply for the 2023 Zero Barriers in STEM Education Summit has passed. 

Summit Mentors

Mentors are critical to the success of the summit and the work to follow. They should be knowledgeable about STEM, education, equity, and students with disabilities. 

About the Initiative

Zero Barriers in STEM Education: Accessibility and Inclusion Program

Increasing STEM Opportunities Through Accessibility and Inclusion for All

The Challenge
Students with disabilities are less likely to pursue a STEM degree or profession because they are not provided with the same opportunities to fully engage in their STEM learning, in comparison to counterparts. A recent Pew Research study reported that nearly 14% of public-school students (nearly 7 million) identify as students with disabilities and receive services under Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. 

Furthermore, individuals with disabilities make up approximately 26% of the population. Yet, according to a National Science Foundation 2019 report on the representation of persons with disabilities in the labor market, individuals with disabilities make up a smaller share of science and engineering professionals. The report states that barriers in education and employment that the disabled community face include, “being treated less favorably or lack of reasonable accommodation in school or in the labor market.”

Our Response
The Smithsonian Science Education Center has established The Zero Barriers in STEM Education: Accessibility and Inclusion program to offer educators support in designing enriching equity-based STEM experiences for all students, especially students with disabilities. 

This program sees STEM educators as leaders in their school communities. Through that lens, the program works to help educators increase the prevalence of accessible and inclusive STEM practices and programming at their school sites for all students along the continuum of human ability. Zero Barriers supports STEM leadership teams in the following three ways: assisting a school, district or state team of educators, in the development of an action plan that addresses a specific area of need related to accessible and inclusive STEM programs, practices or school culture at the Zero Barriers in STEM Education: Accessibility and Inclusion Summit; supplying teachers with resources and materials for implementation of accessible STEM practices; and providing professional learning opportunities to help educators understand how to support students with disabilities in their STEM classrooms during the school year.

We believe that as educators increasingly become aware of teaching approaches that reduce barriers to entry, everyone along the continuum of human ability can fully participate in STEM learning, especially students who traditionally had limited access. As students engage in classrooms created with universal design in mind, they are empowered to explore their STEM identities.


About the Accessibility and Inclusion Workbook

Created in collaboration with the Zero Barriers in STEM Education Advisory Committee, the Zero Barriers in STEM Education Accessibility and Inclusion Workbook provides strategies on ways to integrate inclusive/Universal Design for Learning practices into the K-12 STEM classroom. Our goal is to empower teachers to structure lessons to address the needs of all students, including those with disabilities.

The workbook provides strategies which can be implemented into new or existing lessons to make them more accessible and creates a culture of inclusivity in the classroom.



This document is intended to be accessible to all users, including screen reader users. Features included are: 

  • Bookmarks 
  • Logical reading order 
  • Proper tagging, including headings, paragraph text, lists, and tables 
  • Figures with alt-text 
  • Primary language set to English