Computing for Everyone (AccessComputing News - November 2010)

Richard Ladner, AccessComputing PI

Recently, I presented "Computing for Everyone" at two events for high school computer science teachers: the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) annual meeting and the CS4HS summer workshop.

My presentation began with photographs of successful scientists with disabilities, ending with a photo of Stephen Hawking. The message was that "people with disabilities can do almost anything in almost any scientific field." I hoped to convey that people with disabilities are often accomplished and successful when given the opportunities and access they need. Below you will find an overview of the information provided in these presentations.

There are different models of disability and they influence our perceptions of what people with disabilities can do. Reviewing the data, about 16% of the U.S. population is disabled and only 1% of PhDs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields is disabled. There is much room for growth.The University of Washington is conducting research in accessible computing, projects include VoiceDraw, WebAnywhere, Supple, ClassInFocus, and Tactile Graphics. Human-Computer Interaction research is also working to make STEM more accessible through user centered design and universal design. By designing products that empower users with disabilities, they are encouraged and enabled to solve their own accessibility dilemas. One example of this in action is a student who is blind who, while in high school, solved a problem of accessibility to mathematics by programming a translator of Nemeth code, a Braille code for math, and LaTex, a standard markup code for math. This student reached the highest level of empowerment by being able to program her own solution to an accessibility problem.

AccessComputing recruited four teachers who are deaf to attend the CS4HS workshop. One of the workshop leaders later commented, "All of the teachers were really appreciative of the presence of the teachers who were deaf as well as the sign language interpreters." He added that one of the AccessComputing-funded participants "was easily the most engaged participant—his willingness to ask questions really helped the atmosphere in the workshop, because it helped to get everyone else engaged."