Coding Platforms for the Visually Impaired: Microsoft Code Jumper @Microsoft @allisondlinn @APHfortheBlind
Recent technologies are aimed at providing coding opportunities for blind and partially sighted individuals. One technology is Microsoft Code Jumper:
…Students are taking out brightly colored plastic pods, connecting them together with thick white wires and then adjusting the pod’s buttons and knobs. These physical components will be used to create computer programs that can tell stories, make music and even crack jokes.
The students at New College Worcester are all blind or with low vision, and they are part of a group of students across the UK who have spent the previous school year beta testing Project Torino, a research project that led to the development of a new product called Code Jumper. It’s a physical programming language that is designed to be inclusive of children with all ranges of vision.
“What I like about Project Torino is that you can actually touch, physically, the program,” said Victoria, 14 and a student at the school, which serves about 80 students.
Microsoft has announced plans to transfer the research and technology behind Code Jumper to the American Printing House for the Blind, a nonprofit based in Louisville, Kentucky, that creates and distributes products and services for people who are blind or with low vision. Over the next five years, APH plans to offer Code Jumper and related curriculum to students throughout the world, with a target audience of students who are 7 to 11 years old.
The nonprofit’s leaders say the goal isn’t just to introduce kids to coding – it’s also to give them the underlying skills that can lead to a career in computer science.
“This is an opportunity for thousands of people to have meaningful and well-paying jobs,” said Larry Skutchan, director of technology and product research for APH.
The impetus for Code Jumper began about four years ago, when Cecily Morrison, a Microsoft researcher and computer scientist, began exploring technology options for her son, Ronan, who was born blind. Morrison was surprised to discover that many of the technologies available to Ronan and other children who are blind were far clunkier and more out-of-date than the smartphones, tablets and other technology that most kids today use, because few organizations had the resources to modernize them.
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