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Inclusion and Education: 3D Printing for Integrated Classrooms

Erin Buehler, William Easley, Samantha McDonald, Niara Comrie and Amy Hurst

The 17th International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility (ASSETS 2015)
Lisbon, Portugal, October 26-28, 2015


Over 60% of adults with intellectual disabilities (ID) in the U.S. are unemployed; this is more than twice the unemployment rate of the general population [19]. Of the adults with ID who are employed, only half receive competitive wages alongside co-workers without disabilities. While the enactment of IDEA [20] has helped to promote access to education for people with ID and other disabilities, there are still obstacles to employment. Misconceptions about ability and lack of opportunities to learn and practice employability skills contribute to this problem. Our research explores employability and integration through the lens of 3D printing, an innovative technology touted as a means to self-employment. We successfully taught young adults with intellectual disabilities many technical skills required for 3D printing through an integrated, post-secondary course on 3D printing for entrepreneurship. In this paper we report on our methods for designing this course and discuss the benefits, challenges, and strategies for teaching 3D printing to an integrated cohort of students. We offer recommendations for educators and describe technology obstacles unique to this user demographic, and the impact of integrated, postsecondary courses on employment outcomes for students with ID.

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