During CSEdWeek we should all reflect on how the CS for All movement is doing with respect to including all minoritized groups including students with disabilities.
During CSEdWeek we should all reflect on how the CS for All movement is doing with respect to including all minoritized groups including students with disabilities. The 2020 State of Computer Science Education, Illuminating Disparities report has taken a great step forward in doing just that. The report is full of disaggregated data about gender, race, and ethnicity. For the first time in this series of yearly reports data on students with disabilities, English language learners, and students eligible for free and reduced-price meals are reported. Focusing just on students with disabilities, eleven states reported that 7.60% of the students who took CS courses were served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), while 12.90% of the students in those states are covered under IDEA. Thus, there is significant participation in CS by students with disabilities, but not full participation.
One group of students with disabilities we don’t know about are those who are served under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Section 504 is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. In the context of K-12 education, it ensures that the child with a disability has equal access to an education through necessary accommodations and modifications. Unlike those students served under IDEA, Section 504 students do not have individualized education programs that can set different educational goals than is expected normally for non-disabled students. There are an estimated one to two million students in public schools served under Section 504, while about seven million who are served under IDEA. We still need to know about the computer science participation of Section 504 students, and students under IDEA in those other 39 states and the District of Columbia.
AccessCSforAll, an NSF-funded project, has been working to help make CS education more accessible and welcoming to students with disabilities. Under the leadership of Andreas Stefik, Champion on Change in Computer Science Education recipient in 2016, AccessCSforAll is developing new accessible technology and curricula to support students who are blind or visually impaired. Professor Stefik and I have led professional development workshops for AP Computer Science Principles for teachers of blind and visually impaired students and for teachers of deaf and hard of hearing students. We will be holding a third professional development workshop for teachers of students with learning disabilities this coming summer. Articles on the two previous workshops are available, as are a series of recorded webinars suitable for CS teachers and content providers. We also engage in advocacy to help make sure the CS for All movement responds to the needs of students with disabilities. AccessCSforAll also has a “hotline,” firstname.lastname@example.org, where CS teachers can contact us about any issues regarding their students with disabilities.
This coming spring AccessCSforAll will be hosting four 90 minute webinars titled “Accessible Computer Science: Teacher-to-Teacher” sponsored by the Infosys Foundation. These live webinars will be led by experienced teachers who specialize in teaching computer science to different groups of students with disabilities: blind and visually impaired, deaf and hard of hearing, learning disabled, and neurodiverse. The webinars are for general education CS teachers who may have just a few students with disabilities in their classes, which is the common case. The webinars will be recorded and made available for those who cannot attend in person. Watch for the announcements for these webinars.
About the Authors
AccessCSforAll is a research-practitioner partnership that works to increase the successful participation of students with disabilities in K-12 computing. This work is led by teams at the University of Washington and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in partnership with many of the current and future National Science Foundation computing education grantees, K-12 computing educators, and developers of accessible tools and curricula to maximize the impact of their work.
All photos courtesy of AccessCSforAll.