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DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION
The Americans with Disabilities Act at 30
In a photo taken before the coronavirus pandemic necessitated the wearing of facial coverings, Prof. Karl Booksh (right) teaches a chemistry course at the University of Delaware. Booksh joined UD’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in 1998. Booksh broke his neck playing flag football as a freshman in college. The injury would put Booksh in a wheelchair, but it didn’t stop him from pursuing the career he always wanted — to be an educator.
One in four Americans (26%) has a disability of some kind — it may be serious difficulty with mobility, cognition, hearing, vision, independent living.
The Americans with Disabilities Act, designed to protect people with disabilities from discrimination, was passed into law 30 years ago, on July 26, 1990.
A few years before the ADA came into being, Karl Booksh broke his neck playing flag football as a freshman in college. The injury would put Booksh in a wheelchair, but it didn’t stop him from pursuing the career he always wanted — to be an educator. Originally, he thought he wanted to be a high school teacher, but then he fell in love with research and revised his plans.
He went on to earn a bachelor of science in chemistry with honors from the University of Alaska, a doctorate in chemistry from the University of Washington, and a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship prior to joining the faculty of the University of Delaware’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in 1998. Since then, he’s been leading a thriving research program at UD in the development of chemical sensors for environmental, biomedical and industrial monitoring. He’s published more than 100 scientific papers and holds five patents.
Booksh also has been an outspoken advocate for people with disabilities, particularly in academia. He’s on the board of OXIDE, the Open Chemistry Collaborative In Diversity Equity, established by the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health and Department of Energy. He is a past chair of the American Chemical Society’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board and the Committee on Chemists with Disabilities. Currently, he is president-elect of the Society for Applied Spectroscopy, where he is working to establish its first diversity and inclusion committee. He also has pioneered an NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program at UD to encourage more students with disabilities to continue on for their doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.
In recognition of the ADA’s 30th anniversary this year, UDaily asked Booksh about the headway he has seen and the work yet to be done, from his perspective.