What are challenges to increasing the participation of students with disabilities in computing?

Date Updated

Many challenges to increasing the participation of students with disabilities in computing have been reported by faculty, staff, students and other stakeholders. This topic was discussed at Building Capacity to Increase the Participation of People with Disabilities in Computing, an AccessComputing-sponsored Capacity Building Institute (CBI) that was held December 5-7, 2016 in Seattle, WA. Participants in the CBI engaged in presentations, panels, and small group discussions about how to make classes, departments, and professional organizations more welcoming and accessible to individuals with disabilities and encouraging educators to include accessibility in computing curriculum. Attendees included computing faculty members and graduate students, computing students and professionals with disabilities, disability services professionals, and industry professionals from across the country.

In brainstorming sessions, CBI participants identified the following as possible barriers to increasing the participation of students with disabilities in computing:

  • Buildings and classrooms are inaccessible.
  • Instructors don’t receive much or any training in how to work with students, especially students with disabilities.
  • Online courses often include inaccessible website, documents, and tools.
  • There is a lack of championship of accessibility and inclusion. 
  • Departments are intimidated from trying to be more accessible by the perceived cost despite the fact that much can be done with little or no funding.
  • Many departmental websites and marketing materials are inaccessible to some students with disabilities.
  • Students with disabilities are often not included in targeted recruiting methods.
  • Professors have applications and software tools they like to use that aren’t accessible.
  • There are few role models with disabilities within computing departments.
  • Accessibility can often just be seen as a legal obligation, not an inclusionary practice.

For more information about this topic, consult Working Together: Faculty and Students with Disabilities and Equal Access: Universal Design of Computing Departments.