Project Summary: SMARTer Board: Girls Solve Visual Accessbility Issues

Lead: Illinois Center for Specialized Professional Support
Contact: Lynn Reha
Contact E-mail:
Project Dates: Leadership Team Meetings: Nov 21 & Dec 7, 2011 and Jan 20, Feb 23, & May 1,2012
Design Team Activities: Mar 27, April 2, 3, 5, 10, 16, 17, 19, 24, and 30, 2012
Total Number of Youth Served: 12 Students Ages 8-13
Funding: $2,525.47

Project Summary:Two middle school girls and a young boy sitting on a couch working with technology devices
This project utilized a Design process with four diverse Design Teams which each met three times.  Each Design Team created solutions to the stated problem of the inherent lack of accessibility to interactive whiteboard technology experienced by students with visual impairments.  The solutions derived from the Design Teams have been put into practice through application by teachers at Metcalf School and through dissemination at national conferences for education of students with visual impairments and professionals.

Our Design Team objective was to solve a problem:  lack of accessibility to the full experience of interactive whiteboards for students with low vision and blindness.  By grouping middle school girls, pre-service teachers, teachers, and students with low vision and blindness together to solve this problem, the students with low vision and blindness became the experts.  They were the ones who described the problem in detail, adding motivation to solving the problem by also explaining how it felt to have to depend on others to be involved in the same way as their sighted peers.  Not only did the students with low vision have insight into the problem, but also, they were needed to test the ideas.  As a result of involving these students on the Teams, sighted Design Team members learned more about the experience of the students with a disability and were inspired to help find good solutions. 

The Design Teams were exposed to information about computer science careers through a handout and discussion.  This discussion occurred concurrently with the practice of computer science to achieve the Design Team goals of better accommodations for students with visual impairments.  In short, Design Teams were provided with both the immediate practice of computer science and a conceptual framework for what a computer science career entails.

Project Impact:
This project impacted the individuals involved, the teachers at Metcalf School, teachers in the local school district, and teachers who attended national presentations on the topic.

Leadership Team and Design Team members increased their problem-solving skills and their awareness of assistive technology by listening carefully to the students with visual impairments describe the effects of this problem on their learning, and investigating both low and high tech solutions for this problem.

Middle school girl guides a young boy through a computer programIn addition to providing resources and training, “Ten Top Tips for Making the SMART Board Useful to Visually Impaired Students,” to Metcalf School teachers, information from this project was also shared with local school districts that serve students with visual impairments. Presentations were made at two national conferences, thus impacting teachers of students with visual impairments across the nation. Project personnel have also addressed the accessibility gap with SMART Board employees: sales staff, technicians, and researchers.  

The Project was featured in the Illinois State University Media Report in Spring 2012. 

How did this project benefit from being a collaborative effort?
Students with visual impairments were essential and equal members of each Design Team; working together created an important connection between these younger students, middle school girls and pre-service teachers. The students with visual impairments were the “experts” on the Design Teams because only they could describe how a particular technology worked or did not work for them. Middle school girls thus had new connections with younger students who had different abilities. University and community college students participated on the Leadership Team, creating new connections between computer science and special education at two geographically close institutions.

Departments of the University (Special Education Assistive Technology Center, Classroom Technology Support Services and Metcalf University Lab School) seized this new opportunity to unite in a project which advanced research for better accommodations for students with visual impairments.

Final Budget
Item CSCP Expenses Other Funds Sources of Other Funds TOTAL FUNDS
College student pay $507.65     $507.65
Stipend $100.00     $100.00
Transporation for facilitators        
Meeting refreshments (two planning, three cohort meetings) $292.86     $292.86
Software for iPads/laptops $49.99     $49.99
Copying     Metcalf School  
Metcalf teacher time     Metcalf School  
Meeting space, equipment use     Metcalf School  
Supplies/Equipment purchase: 3 iPads @ $524.99 each $1,574.97     $1,574.97
Administrative time     Illinois Center for Specialized Professional Support  
TOTAL $2,525.47     $2,525.47