Students Work to Improve Computer Programming Accessibility

Students Work to Improve Computer Programming Accessibility

Ian Matty & the volunteers of the Mountain Lakes Public Library Makerspace have teamed up again with TVI, Assistive Technology Specialist Lauren Marron and her students to learn and explore STEM concepts such as engineering, universal design, 3d printing and computer programming. The focus of a STEM education is hands-on, problem-based learning.

During Technology week, students learned about engineering and design by building with Keva planks, which are all the same size and shape. The activity relies on the students creativity to design all types of structures with the planks. Students also had the opportunity to explore a working 3d printer and the types of designs 3d printing can generate.

Mr. Matty explained that one area where accessibility needs improvement is computer programming. To address this topic, ML Makerspace alumni Richard He and Savaas Iqbal developed 3d printed tactile Scratch programming blocks. Scratch programming is the standard application to introduce students to computer science. However, it is not screen accessible. The 3d printed tactile programming blocks replicated exact Scratch programming functions in braille,allowing students to work with their teachers to write their own computer code. Everyone loved writing code that when programmed on the computer created music!

Ms. Marron said, “The partnership between my students, and Ian‘s Makerspace students began in 2019 and has been an experience like no other! My students are given opportunities in STEM that are typically a challenge because of the lack of accessibility or knowledge of blindness. Ian’s students have learned how to take a visual program and make it hands-on and accessible. Both sets of students have learned the importance of Universal Design when creating materials. Materials should be created with all people in mind; with or without a disability.”

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