The Alliance for Access to Computing Careers (AccessComputing) has been supported since 2006 by the National Science Foundation as part of the Broadening Participation in Computing (BPC) program of the Directorate for Computer and Information Sciences and Engineering (CISE) (grant #CNS-0540615, CNS-0837508, and CNS-1042260). Each new grant has been informed by the results and lessons learned through the previous project. The following paragraphs summarize results and lessons learned from the first project that were employed in future projects.


At the end of the first project the online AccessComputing Knowledge Base contained 341 Q&As, case studies, and promising practices and reached an access level of 45,000 hits per month. Publications included four articles/chapters in peer-reviewed journals/books, seventeen other publications and two websites-AccessComputing and Advancing Deaf & Hard of Hearing in Computing.

Outputs and Outcomes

Increased awareness and interest in supporting the project goal is documented by regular and significant increases in the number of individuals and organizations contacting project staff for advice regarding accommodating specific students with disabilities and designing welcoming and accessible computing departments and activities.

Twenty-six AccessComputing seed grants and subcontracts totaling more than $150,000 were awarded. AccessComputing has directly served more than 2,400 students with disabilities. The Alliance hosted a total of 28 academies and workshops that involved over 450 students with disabilities-112 students participated in research and industry internships or other work-based learning (with 57 salaries paid with project funds); 98 were involved in e-mentoring communities; 275 participated in other computing activities; and over 1,500 interacted with staff, partners, or collaborators; 250 of the student participants engaged in activities funded through project subcontracts and seed grants. Feedback from students and instructors suggests that these activities increased interest, knowledge, and skills of students with disabilities with respect to computing.

Two hundred practitioners were engaged in online communities of practice (CoPs) for computing faculty/ administrators/employers, postsecondary disability service directors, administrators of broadening participation projects, and leaders in the deaf and hard of hearing community; an online evaluation tool was developed; data collected documents value and impact of membership in the CoPs: typical impressions include: "This is a great resource. ...even though we have similar problems, we all have different ideas of how to solve these problems. Trying different tactics has been beneficial." Capacity-Building Institutes engaged 186 members of stakeholder groups nationwide. In addition, project staff participated in 69 presentations at regional and national conferences; activities supported by seed grant recipients reached 300 educators and administrators. Outcome data documents benefits of activities to include increased knowledge regarding serving students with disabilities and plans to take actions to make computing more accessible and welcoming to students with disabilities. Analysis of the outcome data led to the identification of case studies and evidence-based practices published in the project Knowledge Base and in periodicals.



Participant tracking through critical junctures to computing careers supports the efficacy of AccessComputing evidence-based interventions by documenting higher levels of success-in terms of high school graduation, college attendance and persistence, computing majors and degrees, computing careers-of participants than of people with disabilities in comparison groups. Tracked were students who

  1. participated in the AccessComputing Team and
  2. agreed to be part of a larger research study that tracks participants in DO-IT's NSF-funded projects since 1992. Results for each as well as comparison data are summarized below.

Comparison data

Participant progress is compared with the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2) (SRI International, 2001-2011) which is a follow-up of the original National Longitudinal Transition Study (SRI International 1985-1993). References can be found at the end of this document and also in the Reference List of the 2009 Report of the AccessSTEM/AccessComputing/DO-IT Longitudinal Transition Study (ALTS).

  • High school graduation: 74% of students in general graduate from high school (Snyder, T., & Dillow, S., 2010). Recent figures report 56% of special education students earned a high school diploma (National Center for Education Statistics, 2009 b); 25.5% of special education students dropped out of school (National Center for Education Statistics, 2009 b). NLTS2 reported the high school graduation rate for special education students to be 70% for 2003 (SRI International).
  • College attendance: In 2007-8 the percentage of students with disabilities enrolled in postsecondary institutions at the undergraduate level was 10.8%; students with disabilities accounted for 7.6% of the students enrolled at graduate levels (National Center for Education Statistics, 2009 a). 45% of students with disabilities attend college (SRI International).77% of NLTS respondents had college goals; only 31% attended college within two years after graduation (SRI International, 1987-1993) (Wagner, M., Newman, L., Cameto, R., & Levine, P., 2005).
  • Degree completion: 30% of the US adult population earns bachelors degrees (Snyder, T., & Dillow, S., 2010). Twenty-nine percent of students with disabilities in NLTS2 left the postsecondary institution they attended with a degree (SRI International).
  • Computing majors: In 2008, 12% of undergraduate and 8% of graduate computing majors had disabilities; in 2004-8 (National Center for Education Statistics, 2008). Seven percent of computing doctorates were earned by students with disabilities (National Science Foundation, 2008).
  • Employment: 6% of people employed in computing in 2006 had disabilities (National Science Foundation, 2006).

AccessComputing participant data

A sample of 125 AccessComputing participants were tracked through critical junctures to computing degrees and careers.

  • Participation: 72 computing internships were completed, 98 participants were mentored, 85 participants received peer support, and 80 were individually advised.
  • When they began participating in AccessComputing, 26 were in high school, 7 were pursuing a training certificate, 27 were at a two-year college, 53 were undergraduates at a four-year colleges, 5 were in a graduate program, 5 were recent graduates with BA degrees, and no one was employed in a career position.
  • College enrollment: During the project, 90% of the high school graduates transitioned to college.
  • Degree completion: Participants earned:
    • 5 certificates in computer technology, 12 associates degrees,
    • 26 bachelors degrees (58% in computing disciplines), and
    • 1 masters degree in educational technology.
  • Employment: 22 accepted career positions, 73% in computing fields.

AccessSTEM/AccessComputing/DO-IT Longitudinal Transition Study (ALTS)

ALTS, initiated with AccessSTEM funding, is a research study that tracks the progress of students with disabilities, not all necessarily initially interested in STEM, through critical junctures(Burgstahler, S., 2006) to postsecondary degrees and careers. All respondents participated in evidence-based interventions-mostly funded, at least in part, by NSF since 1992-that were designed to promote college and career success (Burgstahler, S., Moore, E., & Crawford, L., 2009). AccessComputing participants were invited to participate in the ALTS; so far only a small number, 57, have begun to participate.

  • High school graduation: Their high school completion rate was 100%; 51 graduated; 6 are still enrolled.
  • College enrollment, degrees, employment: 100% of the 51 high school graduates enrolled in college; 21 had computing majors/minors and some were still considering these fields; 4 graduated from college with computing degrees. Nine of the respondents were currently employed, 6 in computing fields.

Although this is a small group now, there is long-term value in including AccessComputing participants in ALTS as they will continue to be tracked by the DO-IT Center after the project funding period has ended.

Conclusion. Almost every respondent is moving through junctures in a timely manner; evidence-based project interventions are helping to fill the gap in computing fields between people with and without disabilities; and the total number of computing degrees is likely larger than what it would be otherwise both because of the ability of project interventions to successfully encourage the exploration of computing, but also because of the overall increase in success of participants and the resultant increased size of the pool of college graduates with disabilities.


Institutional data nationwide suggests positive impacts of AccessComputing.

  • Websites in computing departments nationwide were made more accessible. At the beginning of the project, staff reviewed the accessibility of images on postsecondary computing department websites nationwide through membership of the CRA; departments were given suggestions for making image content accessible; pre-post measurements revealed significant improvements in the accessibility of images. The percentage of significant images that had alternative text in 2006 was 53% and in 2010 76%; in 2006 18% of computing departments had alternative text on all significant images; these results suggest project impact. In addition, project staff conducted comprehensive accessibility evaluations of 57 websites of project partners, computing departments, and K-12 schools; they then worked with 21 of these organizations to implement changes toward making their web sites more accessible; 11 implemented specific changes.
  • Due in part to AccessComputing and First Extension efforts, disability at the UW is now considered a diversity issue, as reflected in the change of the Office of Minority Affairs to the Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity; disability issues are considered along with those of minority students and women in the College of Engineering; collaborative efforts have resulted in an IT website to address procurement and development issues; the Adaptive Technology Lab grew into the Access Technology Lab to provide consulting to UW units on universal and accessible design; sign language is offered as a language class.
  • AccessComputing was a catalyst for increases in the (1) activity of UW students and professors in Computer Science and Engineering; in Electrical Engineering; the Information School; and in disability-related research (e.g., Deaf and Hard of Hearing Cyber-Community, Voice Draw, WebAnywhere, Supple, TrueKeys, MobileASL, Tactile Graphics) and (2) amount of accessibility topics integrated in courses.
  • Two important conferences have been made more welcoming and accessible to participants with disabilities. At the 2010 Academic Careers Workshop sponsored by CMD-IT and the Coalition for Diversifying Computing, for the first time Ph.D. students and young academics attending the workshop included those with disabilities (four in total). The 2010 SIGCSE conference included five deaf or hard of hearing attendees. At SIGCSE all plenary talks and one track of sessions were interpreted and captioned.
  • After many years of engagement with project staff, EDUCAUSE established an IT Accessibility Constituent Group and an AccessComputing staff member assumed the role of chair of this group. In 2007, EDUCAUSE invited the project technology specialist to speak at the annual CIO Meeting, an event attended by 100 CIO's from higher education institutions. In 2010, EDUCAUSE will sponsor a space at its national conference dedicated to IT accessibility, and to actively promote that space.
  • At the beginning of the BPC program, the only funded project focused on disability was AccessComputing. There are now four other funded BPC projects that focus on disability. Of the four, three received advice and encouragement from AccessComputing staff in the design and preparation of their grant proposals.


Maintenance of the online searchable Knowledge Base, online distribution of project products, engagement of CoPs, and ALTS were institutionalized within the DO-IT Center. Numerous publications in the literature also ensure long-term project impact and replication. Long-term impact results from institutional efforts, too; for example, a seed grant funded the participation of students from the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf in a computing activity at Carnegie Mellon; the program was such a success that the School for the Deaf started picking up the costs to keep the program going; at these events hearing students begin to learn sign language and deaf students become excited about computing.

Lessons Learned and Responses in Future AccessComputing Projects

Next steps for the proposed project were informed by lessons learned in earlier projects.

Individual participation

Lessons Learned:In Response, the Current Project:
Individuals face common issues as well as unique challenges related to specific disabilities, in both academic and non-academic (e.g., self-advocacy) arenas.Fine-tunes, expands, and delivers successful practices that address these issues for students with different types of disabilities; shares replication details to encourage others to implement them.
Motivational activities can recruit students without initial interest in computing; once they become interested, comprehensive preparation and retention interventions produce more positive outcomes than isolated efforts.Continues the coordinated, multiple-intervention approach developed in earlier projects, with a focus on adaptation and institutionalization in partner schools and organizations; shares successful practices that will lead to replication.
There are few leaders and role models with disabilities in computing fields.Engages individuals with disabilities in computing in leadership and mentoring roles.
The representation of students with disabilities in computing majors and degree completion decreases as education levels become higher.Increases efforts to secure research internships in computing for students with disabilities and encourages graduate studies.

Organizational capacity development

Lessons Learned:In Response, the Current Project:
Institutional change is needed to make computing departments both welcoming and accessible to students with disabilities.Works with more computing department partners at mainstream colleges and universities to promote and document institutional changes.
Positive outcomes result from cooperative efforts between organizations focused on computing and those focused on disability.Expands project partnerships and engagement using successful collaboration tools and strategies established in earlier projects. New activities benefit from facilitation by trained staff and funding for initial activities on which institutionalization of these practices can build. Expands the established AccessComputing seed grant application process and outcomes-focused evaluation to support new projects; and replicates earlier proven practices and disseminate results.
Students with disabilities face particular challenges in transitioning from high school or military to college, from two-year to four-year schools, and from undergraduate to graduate studies as evidenced by low success rates.Works with partners to develop sustainable models for transitions of individuals with disabilities from high school to college; two-year to four-year schools; undergraduate to graduate programs; and military to college studies in computing.
K-12 teachers/schools need help in making computing classes more inclusive of students with disabilities.Hosts training, engages teachers online, and works with the Computer Science Teachers Association and the CS/10k Project to address this need.
K-12 outreach programs tend to be inaccessible to some disabled students.Works with K-12 outreach programs to increase their capacity to include all students.
Mainstream computing courses rarely include accessibility/disability topics.Promotes the inclusion of accessibility/disability topics in K-12 and college computing courses.
Computing conferences/meetings are often inaccessible to people with disabilities.Works to increase the capacity of computing organizations to include participants with disabilities.
Alliances for women and minorities are not always aware of how to effectively recruit and support participants with disabilities.Increases the capacity of these alliances to make their activities and resources welcoming and accessible to participants with disabilities.

Alliance impact

Lessons Learned:In Response, the Current Project:
Facilitation of stakeholder engagement and dissemination can extend project impact.Expands online resources; includes more postsecondary institutions as partners.


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