Canada must support inclusive and accessible environments to reduce barriers to STEM education for the next generation of leaders

Small Business Canada

Third 3M STEMtalk discussion finds the Canadian disability community faces significantly greater challenges in the pursuit of STEM pathways that require immediate action

LONDON, ON, Feb. 23, 2022 /CNW/ – People with disabilities face significant challenges in the pursuit of STEM education. In Canada, the disability community is underrepresented and often overlooked when it comes to inclusive access to STEM education. A more diverse STEM workforce that includes and lifts all voices and experiences, results in more innovative ideas, and further enables Canadian businesses, the academic community, and the broader industry to collectively come together to help solve some of our biggest problems.

It’s no longer taboo to talk about what it means to be disabled,” said Naheda Sahtout, PhD, Science Analyst, Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Sahtout joined a group of fellow Canadian STEM experts comprised of scientists, scholars, researchers, students and disability rights and accessibility advocates for the third 3M STEMtalk workshop, for a discussion on the topic of ‘Changing the way STEM is taught and accessed in Canada’ for people with disabilities.

When asked what is the one action that can be done to change the way STEM is taught and accessed – the overwhelming response from STEMtalk participants was that we need to work towards a world where accommodations for people with disabilities are not just an afterthought. This is achieved by:

  1. Creating accessible STEM physical spaces as part of a universally inclusive approach.
  2. Creating awareness about what accessibility truly means for STEM education.
  3. Ensuring that funds are truly creating impact to action the change that is needed.


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“It’s clear the disability community is being left behind when it comes to conversations and actions around diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM education,” said Penny Wise, President of 3M Canada. “The mantle of responsibility falls on all Canadians to uplift their peers and normalize differences faced by the disability community. It’s essential we provide spaces where all Canadians, no matter their disability, have the tools and resources they need to not only pursue STEM education, but to be the innovative leaders they can be within their careers.”

“Being a scientist is not only about performing labs,” said Ainsley Latour, M.Sc, MLT, B.Ed, Clinical Genetic Technologist, Kingston Health Sciences Centre, Co-Founder, IDEA-STEM. “Unfortunately, the system we have set requires students to perform lab work to become a fully qualified scientist, but with the significant shortage of accessible equipment, accessible laboratories, and accessible procedures for performing labs, the disability community feels overlooked and gatekept from STEM opportunities.”

The recent 3M STEMtalk is part of an ongoing series of workshops led by 3M Canada and represents just one of the steps to advance conversations and solutions with the goal of improving equity in access to STEM education.

For further details on these findings, visit

About 3M

At 3M, we apply science in collaborative ways to improve lives daily as our employees connect with customers all around the world. Established in 1951, 3M Canada was one of the first international subsidiaries opened by 3M with the head office and original manufacturing site in London, Ontario where approximately 800 of the company’s 1,900 employees work. Learn more about 3M’s creative solutions to the world’s problems at or on Twitter @3M_Canada.

SOURCE 3M Canada Company

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