Recognizing the value of learning computer science (CS) for all students, many nationwide efforts are underway to ensure that all students in K-12 schools are introduced to computer science. Unfortunately, many of these efforts do not promote practices that are fully accessible and inclusive of students with disabilities. Three examples of inclusive efforts are listed below.
Code.org is a nonprofit dedicated to expanding access to computer science in schools and increasing participation by young women and students from other underrepresented groups. Its vision is that every student in every school has the opportunity to learn computer science as part of their core K-12 education. Code.org highlights accessible options in their Hours of Code tutorials and beginning in 2020 included data about disability in their annual State of Computer Science Report published jointly with the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA), and Expanding Computer Science Education Pathways (ECEP). Tracking the participation of students with disabilities in CS education is critical to determining whether CS education efforts are inclusive.
CSforAll is a central resource for individuals and organizations interested in K-12 computer science (CS) education. They connect providers, schools and districts, funders, and researchers working toward the goal of providing quality CS education to every child in the United States. Among their activities, they encourage their stakeholders to make commitments periodically about the efforts they will take toward these goals. CSforAll partnered with AccessCSforAll to launch an Accessibility Pledge. Signers of the pledge agree to work to make K-12 CS more accessible, with a focus on the following:
- Content providers pledge to explore how they can provide our K-12 computer science content in accessible ways.
- Program providers pledge to explore how they can provide our K-12 computer science experiences in accessible ways.
- School districts and regional/state education associations pledge to promote and support the inclusion of students with disabilities in K-12 computer science education in the communities they serve.
- Researchers of K-12 formal and informal computer science education pledge to consider disability as an underrepresented population in their research projects.
- Investors pledge to include criteria that address the inclusion of students with disabilities in the evaluation process for funding decisions.
Over 100 organizations signed the pledge. This effort, led by one of the leading organizations supporting K-12 CS education, provides a great example of how systemic efforts can highlight the importance of accessibility and encourage stakeholders to take actions related to accessibility.
The work of AccessCSforAll also includes systemic efforts to ensure that computer science education is inclusive of students with disabilities. First funded by the National Science Foundation in 2014, AccessCSforAll offers the following support:
- Provides professional development to organizations that provide professional development to K-12 CS teachers about ways to ensure that their classes are welcoming and accessible to students with disabilities, including information about accessible programming tools and universal design of learning.
- Encourages developers of K-12 CS tools and curricula to make their products accessible and fostered conversation amongst these developers about strategies related to accessibility. In a 2019 report Accessible K-12 Computer Science, written for the DIAGRAM Center, AccessCSforAll PI Richard Ladner highlights accessible tools and curricula.
- Partners closely with Code.org and teachers from schools that serve students who are blind, deaf/hard of hearing, and that have learning disabilities to develop an accessible version of the Code.org Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles curriculum.
Each of these efforts has generated concrete resources that can be used by a wide variety of stakeholders to include students with disabilities in K-12 CS.
Although some promising activities are taking place, these examples also showcase that much work still needs to be done before K-12 computer science instruction is accessible to and inclusive of students with disabilities.
You might also be interested in the knowledge base article, What efforts exist to track the participation of students with disabilities in K-12 computer science education?