Science and blindness
Making science accessible is a challenge because disabilities are varied, so there is no one-size-fits-all formula to meet this challenge. We thought the best way to address this issue was to talk directly to someone who is affected.
We met Bella, a 22-year-old student who does TikToks on her service dog O'Hara. Bella wants to show that people with disabilities are all different and that they are all capable of great things. She is also on a mission to raise awareness about service dogs and how to deal with them. One aspect that she doesn't really talk about on her social media, but that particularly caught our attention, is her daily life as a science student. For us it was really important to shed light on Bella’s story using our platform as we find it really inspiring. Giving people with a disability visibility is also a great move toward a more inclusive world. Bella really emphasized during her interview on the fact that often inappropriate behavior toward her and her guide dog came from ignorance and that people needed to be more educated. We hope that hearing her story through our interview will help people choose to make their scientific projects more accessible to all.
Advice to make science more accessible
Overall, the main conclusion of our interview was that it is necessary to adapt to each person with a disability, as each person has their own way of understanding disability. To facilitate the accessibility of our events, she gave some tips that could be easily implemented:
- Create forms distributed in advance so that people can disclose their disability if they wish and suggest adaptations that could be made to involve them more in the experiences. They are often in the best position to point out what would be helpful.
- Description is essential, it is always good to be present to describe the experiments and any written content displayed during an event.
- Try to optimize the protocols and contents so that they are suitable for all disabilities. It is also good to provide experiences that do not rely on one sense. This makes them more accessible, but it is also an excellent exercise in thinking about different ways of explaining science. It's a great way to educate everyone, because we all have different ways of thinking and understanding science, whether we have a disability or not.
Another aspect is also the accessibility of scientific content whether it is on websites or on social media. There again description is key, Bella suggested adding Alt Text or description to pictures on posts. These would then be read by an app used on blind people’s laptops and phones. Each of our posts on social media have alt text and we added a description to all of the images on the wiki. This was the easiest thing to implement!
Bella’s social media
Instagram - my.eyes.ohara
TikTok - @my.eyes.ohara
Blog - https://www.harnessingsight.com
Women in science
Historically, women were considered intellectually and emotionally unfit for scientific work on a par with men. For this reason, for centuries they have not had access to the same education. Some women have nevertheless managed to gain access to knowledge over the years and have been able to hold scientific positions . However, history has forgotten them…
Today, 30% of the world's researchers are women. According to the Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation, in 2020, women will occupy 28% of research positions, even though there are more women than men with science degrees.
Today, girls are not always supported and encouraged to study science. When they do, the disciplines they study, such as biology or medicine, are often considered minor and less prestigious than the scientific disciplines still predominantly studied by men, such as computer science, physics, chemistry and mathematics. Moreover, women researchers specialising in these disciplines are rarely recognised and their work rarely valued. This is reflected each year in the awarding of the Nobel Prize and the Fields Medal.
Of the 114 winners of the Nobel Prize in Physics ... 4 are women
Of the 113 winners of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry … 7 are women
Of the 112 winners of the Nobel Prize in Medicine ... 12 are women
Of the 60 Fields Medal winners ... Only 1 is a woman
What we do
The inclusiveness of women in science was one of our communication priorities. We realised that women scientists, although numerous, were poorly represented in the media and therefore little known by the general public.
Each week, we shared stories on our Facebook and Instagram accounts called "Women In Science". In this way we highlighted 19 women scientists. These stories allowed us to show the diversity of these women around the world from various cultures.
Science workshops in primary and secondary schools
For us, education and scientific communication was very important. So we often addressed children to transmit their curiosity about science and the desire to do it. During these kinds of events and especially when we did science workshops in schools, it was the female members of our team who led these workshops. The aim was to show girls and young women that they can study science and become scientists too. It was an opportunity for them to be with women scientists for once. Thus, they saw that the association "Science and Women" was possible. It is hoped that this has encouraged these girls to pursue their dreams of becoming scientists in the future.
In addition to our stories and workshops, we had the pleasure of participating in the collaboration proposed by the iGEM Patras team and Concordia: The Rosalind Chronicles .
Each participating team shared with the others a short presentation of a woman researcher of their choice. It was noted that the number of female researchers around the world is such that no team presented the same researcher as another team. It was therefore an opportunity to discover the diversity of these women because they are inspirations for all the young girls who will be the future scientists of tomorrow.
This collaboration was also an opportunity to see that the iGEM competition is an example to follow in terms of women's inclusiveness. Our own team is 70% female and we have seen that the teams are also very female. At our level, we are an example for others. As students we can participate in a scientific competition with an international scope.
We wanted to highlight women scientists and thus deconstruct the stereotypes that women cannot study science and cannot be scientists.
By multiplying this kind of approach, by exposing women scientists in the media, by making them known to the general public, especially to young girls, and by recognizing their work, we will one day achieve gender parity in the scientific world.
- 1. Women in Science - World War II and social changes. Encyclopedia Britannica https://www.britannica.com/topic/Women-in-Science-2100321.
- 2. Women in Science. http://uis.unesco.org/fr/topic/les-femmes-et-la-science (2016).
- 3. ESRI : chiffres-clés de l’égalité femmes-hommes (parution 2021). Ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur, de la Recherche et de l’Innovation //www.enseignementsup-recherche.gouv.fr/pid26420-157348/esri-chiffres-cles-de-l-egalite-femmes-hommes-parution-2021.html.
- 4. The official website of the Nobel Prize - NobelPrize.org. https://www.nobelprize.org/.
- 5. Bouchaud, E. Maryam Mirzakhani, première lauréate de la médaille Fields. L’Histoire par les femmes https://histoireparlesfemmes.com/2021/02/10/maryam-mirzakhani-medaille-fields/ (2021).
- 6. Rosalind Chronicles. https://padlet.com/louisjacquesruel/Rosalind_Chronicles.