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The University Magazine

New funding expands IT program for visually impaired

Stepahnie Ludi works with students at the first ImagineIT summer program in 2007.

Software engineering professors Stephanie Ludi and Tom Reichlmayr received a $475,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to continue and expand their ImagineIT program, which strives to increase participation in computing among students with visual impairments.

The project centers on better class material preparation, support and teacher development.

"The unemployment rate for the blind in this country is 70 percent," says Ludi. "We want to open more doors for the visually impaired and get them thinking about college."

Fifteen seventh- through 12th-grade students from around the country traveled to RIT in the summer of 2007 for the inaugural workshop, where they worked on projects that included programming robots and assembling computers.

"It was really rewarding to see how excited they got," says Reichlmayr. "These students are a very small minority in their schools and they have limited opportunities to collaborate with other students who are just like them."

This new grant money will help Ludi and Reichlmayr expand the program. Three workshops will be held at RIT over the next three years. But this time, ImagineIT is also hitting the road. Workshops will take place in the San Diego, Calif., area during two of the next three summers.

John Follaco