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Computer Labs Case Study

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Imke and Computer Labs: A Case Study in Computer Access for Students who are Blind

Background
My name is Imke and I am blind. As a graduate student in Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington, I enrolled in a course on cloud dynamics. The homework assignments required students to plot and view radar observations of various storms using specialized computer software.

Access Issue
In order to answer the homework problems, I needed to find a way to obtain the relevant information from the graphical representations of radar observations.

Solution
I suggested that I might work on the homework assignments with another student in the class who could operate the necessary computer software and describe the relevant visual information to me. I discussed this suggestion with both the professor and the university's Disabled Student Services Office. The professor was very receptive to this idea, and Disabled Student Services hired a student who was also taking the class to assist me with these assignments.

Conclusion
This situation illustrates:

  1. A student who is blind can complete assignments that involve inaccessible computer graphics with the help of a sighted person. The student, faculty member, and Disabled Student Services Office worked together to find a solution that met Imke's immediate need to gain access to the course content.

  2. The instructor should explore ways in which the software (or a different product) could be re-designed so that it is fully accessible to students who are blind. Using electronic and information technology that is fully accessible to all students and instructors is the goal.