It would be nice to have someone at The Institute take as much an interest in disabled IEEE members as Sampathkumar Veeraraghavan, whose work was featured in “Giving Back: Helping the Disabled” [May 2009]. That is the only article I found on The Institute’s website on the topic of physical and mental disabilities.
I am a retired IEEE Life Member. I’m also a disabled scientist and a business owner. I think The Institute should consider acting as a clearinghouse for information on issues, programs, opportunities, and other topics related to disabled IEEE members in the workplace. Perhaps it can even act as a kind of cheerleader for such efforts.
It’s all too rare to receive any kind of news from an IEEE source related to members with physical or mental disabilities. The Institute should promote and encourage the creation of IEEE programs designed to help underrepresented, underassisted IEEE members who need a compassionate helping hand for dealing with a disability acquired either at birth or later in life.
It is not enough to provide impersonal help or tools such as specialized software packages or assistive technology to help a disabled worker be as productive as a nondisabled worker. Personal contact is extremely important. To be successful, disabled STEM workers need mentors, career coaches, and advisors as much as any other IEEE member. Perhaps IEEE can even make an effort to ensure that employers do not discriminate against engineers with disabilities.
Too often, ideas for what IEEE can do to help its disabled members come from nondisabled IEEE members. Despite my set of unique gifts as a disabled STEM worker, I am left out in the cold. In fact, I am being ignored. Many IEEE members are being ignored. It’s really important to include all members in the discussion of what they can do for IEEE and what IEEE can do for them. This is vital to the long-term interests and growth of IEEE.
Thank you for bringing this topic to our attention. The Institute is always looking for articles of interest to all our members, including those who are disabled.—Ed.