How can we include students with disabilities in computing courses?
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How can we include students with disabilities in computing courses?

[ Music ] (Narrator) How can we include
students with disabilities in computing courses? We take our smartphones, computers,
and gadgets for granted. But behind all this technology
is a skilled workforce of software developers, systems
administrators, web developers, and programmers. There’s an increasing
demand for individuals who have technical skills. An understanding of
computing is important for these opportunities. We often talk about broadening
the participation of females, as well as racial and ethnic
minorities in computing courses. But what about including
people with disabilities? (Richard Ladner) Worldwide
there’s one billion people, about 15% of the international
population have a disability, according to the World
Health Organization. So if you’d like, that’s
a lot of customers that they would like to get. And having a diverse
workforce, they’re more likely to have the kinds of
products that will satisfy more people’s needs and interests. (Instructor, to the class)
If you really want to explore– (Narrator) Individuals with
disabilities, including autism spectrum disorders,
attention deficits, learning disabilities,
hearing impairments, visual impairments, and
mobility impairments can succeed in computing
education and computing careers. (Cynthia Bennett) It is important
for people with disabilities to pursue careers in
science because we have a really unique life
experiences and skills that we can offer. And it’s important that for us
to be stakeholders in projects and for us to be
represented on the market. (Sheryl Burgstahler)
It’s very important to attract students with
disabilities into computing. One reason is it’s a
matter of fairness. There are a lot of
opportunities in those fields, and they should have
an equal opportunity to pursue those fields. But another important thing
is that they can benefit, those fields can benefit
from the perspectives of people with disabilities. (Narrator) With proper assistive
technology and accommodations, individuals with
disabilities can successfully pursue education and
careers in computing. (Jessie Shulman) My
name is Jesse Shulman. And I’m an operations program
manager in the web services field and a graduate of the
University of Washington, and I have a
learning disability. So I struggle with
language to begin with. So learning a computer syntax,
like Java, all the problems that I had, the struggle
that I had with English came up again with Java. (Cynthia Bennett)
I became interested in a career in human-centered
design and engineering because I worked as a research
assistant in the computer science department at the
University of Washington for two years. I was hired because I have
a psychology background and experience managing
a research project. (Kevin Cree)
I’m dyslexic, which means I have difficulty reading
and pretty bad handwriting. (Jessie Shulman) The combinations
that I used in school included books on tape. I used to notetaker
for certain classes, and I used dictation software
for my writing tasks. (Kevin Cree)
My main accommodations would be extended
time on tests, having my books available as
e-text format, which means I can use a screen reader
to read out the books to me. So even though when
I’m reading it myself, and I may not be able
to understand it, the computer’s telling me
exactly what those words are. (Cynthia Bennett)
Is that slow enough or should I slow it further? I use a typical computer,
like everyone else. But it has an additional
piece of software called a screen reader loaded onto it. The screen reader tells
me what is on the screen. (Richard Ladner) Don’t
feel too pressured if– (Narrator) Teachers can
play an important role in encouraging students with
disabilities to study computing by giving this underrepresented
group access to classes. (Vincent Martin) If you start
doing this at a young age, you won’t even know
what’s going on later. Even if you’re not
a computing major, you need to understand
how computing works because everything you
have has a computer in it– your watch, your phone, your car
has 25 different processes in it. (Kevin Cree) For the most
part, the K through 12 system were very accommodating
getting an IEP and different
accommodations through them, and specific classes to
assist in teaching reading and writing. (Instructor) So I want to talk
a little bit about planning and informative speech. (Narrator) Teachers
can make their classes accessible to all students
by applying universal design, designing their classes and
lessons so all students have equal access to the information. Taking these steps
proactively has the potential to benefit all students
in a classroom, not just the students
with disabilities. (Sheryl Burgstahler) Teachers can
use multi modes of instruction. And so they can speak
the content to the class, they can have students
discuss it in small groups. They can write things on
the overhead projector. They might show a
concept using a video. And so that’s the
first thing, is just to recognize that the
students in that class have many different learning
styles, and some of them actually have disabilities
that affect their learning. (Richard Ladner) They might
provide alternative ways to look at a single
concept in science class, not just one way
of looking at it. So there might be a visual
way, a more auditory way, perhaps examples from different
walks of life of a concept. So you’re already doing that. And so you just want
to continue doing that and maybe add a little bit more. (Narrator) It’s important for
students with disabilities to feel welcome in the classes. (Sheryl Burgstahler)
In the high school setting, one good way to get the word
out about classes that students might take particularly
in computer science, is to let the
counselors know how open they are to having students with
disabilities in their classes. (Erika) I’ve had a lot
of mentors and teachers who have helped me be
more encouraged to go into computing. One of the professors,
a well known professor, Richard Ladner, has really
helped me go towards computing. (Richard Ladner) We can think
of beginning computer science courses as gates, gates
to get into a field. And if those gates are just
impenetrable, or really difficult, or kind of don’t meet
the needs of a lot of students, than, if you like, that
gate is already closed and they’re not getting in. So why not have a course
that is so inviting, so much fun, so interesting,
and is an inviting course? (Narrator) An example of
universal design is Quorum. It’s a programming language
that’s easy for everyone to use and
understand, while also being accessible to
students who are blind. (Richard Ladner) Quorum isn’t
just a language for blind kids, it’s a language for everyone. And it just happens to work
really well blind kids, as well. So if you like, it’s
universally designed. It’s designed for easy
learning by everyone, including blind kids. (Narrator) Although
applying universal design minimizes the need for
accommodations for students, it’s also important to
have a plan in place to respond to additional
accommodation requests. (Cynthia Bennett) There
are a lot of people who take the time to leave the
world a better place than it was when they entered it. And I feel that it’s
my responsibility to do the same to thank all
the people who helped me, and to ensure that more
people with disabilities can pursue the
career that I have, and pursue it a little
bit more easily. (Narrator) To learn
more about how you can encourage
and support students with disabilities in
computing courses, engage with the Access
CS10K Project hosted by the University of Washington. Find resources at To get real time support,
email [email protected]

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