Youth Slam (AccessComputing News - January 2012)

Lyla Crawford, AccessComputing Staff

Youth Slam has been hosted by the National Federation of the Blind since 2004. This five-day academy engages and inspires high school students who are blind to consider careers falsely believed to be inaccessible to them and bring a unified voice to the next generation of blind professionals. At the 2011 Youth Slam event held in July, Dr. Jeffrey Bigham led a track designed to introduce students to computer science through a project based around navigation with the iPhone.

Participants were introduced to computer programming using tools much like what they would see in an introductory course, but were provided with help of knowledgeable and easily available computer scientists. By the end of the week a number of students were excited about the prospect of further development of the applications they had created, and perhaps releasing them on the Apple App Store.

Faculty and computer scientists gained a first-hand appreciation for what it's like for a person who is blind to do computer programming. As Dr. Bigham reported "this experience may alter how they approach their work in the future, may change their approach when encountering students with disabilities in the future, and the experience will be carried forward with them into their careers."