Accessibility concerns for computing education
If you haven’t read Susan Gerhart’s challenging comment on my post about Scratch, I encourage you to do so. Follow her link (there or below) to see her blog with her wonderful, thought-provoking post about the challenges for disabled students to participate in computing education.
When we talk about making computing education more inviting and engaging at younger ages, where we lose students the most, we most often talk about tools like Alice, Scratch, and Microsoft Kodu which are all visual programming languages! Her concerns are well-placed. What do we offer the visually disabled?
I’ve been learning from people here at Georgia Tech about universal design. Now I’m trying to take those issues into consideration for the new instructional materials we’re designing for high school teachers — but I’m late to the game. I don’t think I’m alone. As a computing education community, we’re not doing enough to build tools that help disabled students learn computing, too. There are some great resources, like Richard Ladner and the AccessComputing BPC Alliance. I’m just starting to explore what’s out there. Thanks to Susan for raising the issue here!
Action: On the home front, pedagogical advances claimed for visual programming languages like Alice are not equally available to visually impaired students and teachers. first, is this a true assertion? How does this situation fit the definition of equal or equivalent access to educational opportunities? should the platform and implementation be redone for accessibility? Note: I’ve personally seen a student rapidly learn OO concepts and sat in on Cs1 courses with Alice, but I am totally helpless with only a bright, silent blob on the screen after download. Yes, I’ve spoken to SIGCSE and Alice personnel, suggested accessibility options, but never received a response on what happens to the blind student who signs up for an Alice-based CS course. Please comment if you have relevant experience with accommodations and Alice or other direct manipulation techniques.