A blue rectangle divided into four panels by a white four-pointed star. The upper left panel has a white accessible icon; a person in a wheelchair depicted as moving forward. The upper right panel has in white the outline of a person's head with a filled-in brain shape. The lower left panel has in white two hands signing to indicate ASL interpretation. The bottom right panel has in white a person walking with a long cane.

In 2015, a group of astronomers at Inclusive Astronomy meeting got together and began drafting a proposal to create a Working Group on Accessibility and Disability (WGAD). The proposal was submitted to the AAS in November of 2015 and the group was accepted by the council and officially formed by the Society in January of 2016.

Figure description: three pie charts illustrating the percentage of students with disabilities pursuing STEM degrees/studies. The pies show undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral level studies, with the slices representing students with disabilities becoming vanishingly small: 9-10% at the undergraduate level, 5% at the graduate level, and 1% at the doctorate level.
The 2010 US Census found that 19% of Americans identify as having a disability. In a given year, upwards of a quarter of American adults experience mental illnesses. Yet, within STEM disciplines generally, representation is low beginning at the undergraduate level and continually decreasing along the academic career path.

Image description: 3-column table showing responses of AAS membership in a 2013 survey.
First line: I am deaf or have serious difficulty hearing: 1% of membership, 21 respondents, answered yes. 
Second line: I am blind or have serious difficulty seeing even when wearing glasses: 0% of membership, or 2 respondents, answered yes. 
Third line: I have serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs: 1% of membership, or 14 respondents, answered yes. 
Fourth line: None of the above: 96% of membership, or 1,472 respondents, answered yes. 
Fifth line: 2% of membership, or 26 respondents, preferred not to respond.

In a survey of the AAS membership in 2013, 2% of the membership reported having a disability including mobility or hearing limitations. An equal fraction preferred to not respond to the question. While these respondents had reasons we cannot discern for non-response, we must recognize that disability is stigmatized in our society and that likely prevents many from disclosing. This is troubling for many reasons, not the least of which is that non-disclosure could then prevent access to resources.

WGAD's charge is to identify and then eliminate barriers to access that exclude astronomers with disabilities from engaging with astronomy. WGAD recognizes the complex identities of astronomers include more than just where we are along the axis of ability, and aims to work in an intersectional manner, addressing how ableism and racism, sexism, classism, and heteronormativity can compound and build higher barriers to access. In a multi-faceted approach, WGAD aims to raise awareness of disability history, the prevalence of ableism, and to prevent erasure. We are also working to promote accessibility across all platforms used to engage with astronomy: presentations, publications, websites, and software, for a few examples.

For further information, our proposal to form WGAD can be found here. Contact information for the coordinating committee members can be found here.