Research conducted in RIT's B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences is making computing more accessible for the visually impaired.
Software engineering associate professors Dr. Stephanie Ludi and Tom Reichlmayr have been awarded two National Science Foundation grants to expand the Accessible Computing Educaiton Project (ACE), which strives to increase participation in computing among students with visual impairments through outreach, class material preparation, support, and teacher development.
"The computing world needs new perspectives," says Ludi, the principal investigator of the grants. "We're not going to move forward and really innovate until we include all points of view. Right now women and people with disabilities are really in the minority. We need to bring those people to the table."
Ludi and Reichlmayr led a summer-long Research Experience for Undergraduates program to continue to develop activities that engage visually impaired students in computing using robotics.
Those activities are then tested during computing workshops for visually impaired students. These sessions, dubbed ImagineIT, have taken place at RIT, as well as in San Diego and New York City.
"It's really rewarding to see how excited the students get," says Reichlmayr, a co-principal investigator. "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."
Ludi hopes to soon expand the project's online resources, making it easier for teachers to access their lesson plans. She is also teaming with students to make "Alice," a popular computer programming software tool that was developed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, more accessible.
"It's one thing to bring visually impaired students into the world of computing—that's very important," says Ludi. "But once they're here, we need to keep them here. They need to be supported."