How can K-12 computing courses be made accessible to students with disabilities?

Date Updated
04/07/21

Many students with disabilities have successfully completed computing courses during their K-12 education. As a result, some individuals with disabilities have successfully completed postsecondary degrees in computing and now have careers in computing fields. However, more work needs to be done in order for all students with disabilities have opportunities to pursue these careers.

Sometimes K-12 computing courses use technologies that are not accessible to students with disabilities, particularly students who are blind or have mobility impairments. However, by using alternative tools that are accessible to students with disabilities, similar concepts can be taught to a wider audience.

One example of a solution to avoid erecting access barriers is using the programming language Quorum. Currently, about a thousand students are taught Quorum each year, and nearly half of the schools for the blind in the United States use Quorum to teach programming. Quorum runs on the Java Virtual Machine and can be used for a wide variety of applications (e.g., web, music). It is accessible to individuals using screen readers and speech output for access and is also accessible to those who can operate a keyboard but not a mouse. It has support for Lego Robotics and a computer gaming engine. Teaching materials for Quorum include an 18-week curriculum, online/offline tools support, a draft textbook, and real-time support via email or Facebook.

Students who have disabilities and are interested in studying and pursuing computing careers can receive mentoring and support by joining the AccessComputing Team. The AccessCSforAll project offers support to computing instructors who wish to better serve students with disabilities; for assistance, contact accesscsforall@uw.edu or 509-328-9331.

For more information on Quorum consult the Knowledge Base article, What is the Quorum programming language? and/or view the video Quorum: An Accessible Programming Language.