December 3, 2021

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Lesson of the Day: ‘A Future for People With Disabilities in Outer Space Takes Flight’

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Featured Article: “A Future for People With Disabilities in Outer Space Takes Flight” by Amanda Morris

Recently, 12 passengers with disabilities traveled aboard a parabolic flight in an experiment testing how people with disabilities would fare in a zero-gravity environment.

In this lesson, you will learn about their experience and the efforts being made to ensure that the future of spaceflight is more inclusive. Then, you will think about accessibility and universal design in your community.

Do you want to travel to space? When we asked students this question in February, many of them were excited about, or at least interested in, this possibility. Before reading the featured article, consider the two additional questions below in writing or class discussion.

  • What limitations or barriers are there to your traveling to space?

  • Have you ever considered how ability or disability affects your possibilities for space travel? Why or why not?

Read the article and then answer the following questions:

1. In what ways has the history of spaceflight been exclusionary? How does the nonprofit organization AstroAccess attempt to make spaceflight more accessible?

2. Why do the participants in the AstroAccess flight argue that it is important to consider accessibility in private space travel now, rather than later?

3. What is the purpose of the space travel testing that AstroAccess is currently doing?

4. Tim Bailey, the executive director of a nonprofit organization focused on space education, said at first that he was concerned about people with disabilities on a zero-gravity flight. What assumptions did he make? Why did he change his mind?

5. What were some of the designs that were tested on the AstroAccess flight to address various accessibility needs?

6. How are space agencies and private spaceflight companies becoming more inclusive — or not — for astronauts and everyday people with disabilities who are interested in space travel?

7. The article featured the personal stories and reflections of several of the passengers on the AstroAccess flight. Choose one story that you found particularly interesting and share what stood out to you about that passenger’s experience.

The featured article focuses on accessibility for people with disabilities in space. Learn more about accessibility here on Earth by exploring one or more of these articles:

  • Inclusive Design: Did you know there is a whole movement dedicated to accessible and inclusive architecture and design? It is sometimes called universal design, or inclusive design. You can learn more about inclusive design by reading about a museum exhibit dedicated to accessible designs, or an architectural reflection of changes to design following the American With Disabilities Act. Or you can learn about accessible cosmetics designs or home designs for older people.

    Choose one article and, as you read, make note of any design features that you had not considered before. Would any of these benefit a space you go to often, such as your school, your home or your local grocery store? How so? What additional questions or reflections do you have about accessible design in your community?

  • Accessibility at Work: Making Work Accessible,” an illustrated article from the Scratch column, profiles Krystal Bailey, a vocational rehabilitation counselor in the Bronx who helps people with disabilities enter the work force. As you read, consider how Krystal’s experience using a wheelchair has made her interested in this kind of work. Then, make note of how she helps her clients find work and the different elements she must consider in terms of accessibility.


Want more Lessons of the Day? You can find them all here.

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