“The premise is, NSF wants to focus on getting more students with disabilities in the STEM field, so that’s what this STEM grant is about,” said Gjolmesli. She said the AccessSTEM team at UW has a coach that comes every Wednesday to monitor students’ academics, and help them if need be. Many students spark friendships, some for the first time, while their GPAs flourish.

AccessSTEM “is a great program, and my students have benefited a lot,” she said. “In fact, they have this cool guru in assistive tech, and every once in a while they will pay students to [meet with the guru] to learn about assistive tech or evaluate a new program that has come out.”

These types of user tests are beneficial not only to the AccessSTEM representatives, but also to the students; Gjolmesli said the contributors are paid for their participation.

The big picture

Despite having been delayed a few decades, Gjolmesli was, in the end, able to pursue a career in education.

“I just said to myself, ‘I’ll show you,’” she said. “And I did.”

Follow Assistant Editor Sarah Langmead on Twitter @eCN_Sarah.

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