in a species count in a local ecosystem. Similarly, hands-on demonstrations may require use of sight and sound.

Adaptive practices and technologies can facilitate some of these access constraints. For example, several interesting innovations facilitate navigation of exhibits. The New York Hall of Science has experimented with cell phones that allow visitors to call exhibits that are equipped with bells that activate when calls come in. People then follow the sound to locate the exhibit. Reich, Chin, and Kunz (2006) report on the use of virtual personal digital assistants that use American Sign Language in the context of a science/science-fiction exhibition at the Museum of Science, Boston. Study participants reported feeling they were freed from reliance on interpreters and other hearing participants. They reported greater freedom to pursue their own agenda.

People with learning disabilities also face unique challenges to learning science, and a limited body of research has characterized the barriers to their participation. Most of this work has examined children’s experience in inquiry-oriented classrooms. The barriers identified include science being presented in highly abstract theoretical forms, overreliance on students’ written forms of communication, reliance on individual (rather than group) scientific tasks, and peer group exclusion (Morocco, 2001; Palincsar, Collins, Marano, and Magnusson, 2000). Although approaches to mediating science for people with learning disabilities have not been studied thoroughly and almost no work has taken place in informal settings for science learning, several promising ideas have emerged. These include linking real-world scenarios to scientific abstractions, using peer conversation, providing support with writing tasks, and allowing children to try out their thinking with a teacher or aid before presenting it to the class (Palincsar et al., 2000; Rivard, 2004). Researchers have also observed specific research practices to be used with children with learning disabilities. They call for assessment tasks that model appropriate language for them (rather than requiring them to generate language) and using multiple measures of student thinking (Carlisle, 1999).

While adaptive technologies and practices may ease access to informal environments for science learning, there are also more fundamental cultural issues to address that entail holistic reassessment of the practices of informal venues for science education, as well as research and development frameworks. Understanding and engaging the disability community may lie beyond the scope of adaptive technologies. As suggested by McDermott and Varenne (1995, 1996), it may be more accurate to think about disability as cultural, where participation is an intersection of the cultures of science and science learning institutions with the communities of people with disabilities.

In this sense, the barriers to participation are culturally produced and culturally overcome. Like other underrepresented groups, people with disabilities may tend to dis-identify with science, face language barriers, and experience political and ideological tension between the norms of science and host institutions and those of their cultural group. For example, Molander,

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