From the University of Illinois College of Information Sciences:
Library makerspaces offer community members the opportunity to tinker, design, experiment and create with a range of technologies in an informal learning space. However, because current maker spaces and maker tools are highly vision-oriented, people who are blind and visually impaired (BVI) have limited access to these learning opportunities. A new project led by Assistant Professor JooYoung Seo and Associate Professor Kyungwon Koh, director of the CU Community Fab Lab, seeks to address this problem by creating accessible maker programs for BVI students and developing training materials for librarians and maker professionals on accessible maker. The researchers were recently awarded a three-year, $498,638 National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS grant LG-252360-OLS-22) for their project “Promoting Computational Thinking Skills for Blind and Visually Impaired Teens Through Accessible Library Makerspaces.”
For the project, the iSchool and CU Community Fab Lab will collaborate with the American Printing House for the Blind, the Young Adult Library Services Association and the Reaching Across Illinois Library System Makerspace Networking Group. The research was also supported by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and the Disability Resource and Educational Services (DRES) Program and the Information Accessibility Design and Policy Program (IADP) at the University of Illinois. Activities will include training accessibility design professionals and conducting accessibility status assessments, organizing a summer camp with BVI teenagers to co-design an accessibility design curriculum, testing the developed accessibility design programs in four Illinois library design spaces, and training library users who will benefit from a more inclusive and accessible maker space.
“Just as curb cuts help more than a person who uses a wheelchair, accessibility features added to the creation tools and learning materials can make the system easier for everyone to use,” Seo said. “The tangible making activities and integrated curriculum in our project will bring the current maker movement new insight into how we can expand participation in making and STEM learning for underserved populations of diverse abilities.”
Koch’s areas of expertise include digital youth, the maker movement, learning and community engagement through libraries, human information behavior and competencies for information professionals. She earned a master’s degree and a doctorate in library and information studies from Florida State University.
Seo’s research focuses on how to make computer literacy more accessible to people with disabilities/abilities using multimodal data representation. He is an RStudio double-certified data science instructor and an accessibility expert who is certified by the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP). Seo received his PhD from the Learning, Design and Technology Program at Pennsylvania State University.
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