Making Computer Science Education Accessible to All Students

A group of individuals with different types of disabilities

Make the Lowest Level of Technology Stack Accessible

It is not too challenging to make pure text and image-based applications accessible to screen-readers by following the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). But what about applications that have complex graphics and are highly visual? Computer programming learning applications contain a lot of graphics and rely greatly on visual cues. For example, Block-Based Programming applications, which are commonly used to teach K-12 beginner students to learn to code, involve dragging and dropping blocks of code to make a 2D/3D Graphic character do something. Although work has been done to make the input, i.e., the dragging and dropping accessible through Keyboard, much work still remains to be done to make this graphical code output accessible.

Develop with Inclusive Design in Mind

Organizations developing learning applications must have in mind inclusive design that takes the experiences of diverse users into account, and optimize a product accessibility for those users, especially those with disabilities.

A man working with a women (who uses a wheelchair) with a tablet in her hands.

Teach using Multimodal Strategies

Accessible programming environments, as discussed above, can remove a lot of burden from educators who have to find ways to circumvent inaccessibility. However, effectively learning computer programming is not just limited to using accessible learning interfaces. Multimodal learning strategies using graphics and music, which are best suitable for people with disabilities, must be used by educators to develop computational thinking. For example, CS Unplugged activities use physical manipulatives to teach CS concepts to K-12 students. If a particular unplugged activity involves the use of paper, it should be printed using a braille embosser for a blind student to participate. Apple released tactile coding puzzles so that students who are Blind can navigate the puzzles using touch and learn to code. A research lab at Auburn University, led by Dr. Daniela Marghitu, is developing CS videos using ASL, in partnership with the non-profit organization Deaf Kids Code. This work is supported by NSF and a SIGCSE Special Projects Grant. Below is an example of an IF-ELSE concept in ASL developed by Auburn University.

Video of an example of an IF-ELSE concept in ASL developed by Auburn University



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The national hub for the Computer Science for All movement, making high-quality computer science education an integral part of K-12 education in the US.