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Commonwealth Alliance for Information Technology Education (CAITE)


CAITE designs and carrys out comprehensive programs that address under-representation in information technology (IT).

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Institute addresses accessibility issues in computing

More than 40 college and university faculty and staff from 24 Massachusetts and Rhode Island colleges and universities gathered in Sturbridge on Monday, Oct. 16, to discuss ways to make the computer science and information technology fields in higher education more accessible to students with disabilities.

In collaboration with University of Washington-based AccessComputing, Commonwealth Alliance for Information Technology Education (CAITE) designed the day-long capacity-building institute to allow ample networking opportunities. A panel of students with disabilities shared their experiences in pursuing computer science careers. Another panel focused on how the many professionals on campus who serve students with disabilities can better coordinate efforts to improve their access to services and overall success.

Another session reviewed best practices and assistive technologies for students with photo women using accessible technologycognitive disabilities, presented by Steven Fadden, vice president for research at Landmark College of Putney, Vermont, a two-year institution for students with learning disabilities. Also, Terrill Thompson, assistive technology specialist for AccessComputing, addressed how to teach these fields in ways that students of all abilities can learn, using principles of universal design. Thompson and Fadden also participated in a panel, “Advancing Diversity & Access in STEM,” the following day at the Massachusetts STEM Summit, where they reached a broader audience of about 30 science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) educators, industry leaders and government representatives.

CAITE was impressed with the high turnout and broad participation from around the region. “Clearly, there is an unmet need for information and places for focused work on these issues," said Renee Fall, CAITE project manager. "Disability service professionals have their own meetings, and computer science and IT faculty regularly gather to talk about research and teaching, but we think this is the first time the two groups have been brought together in Massachusetts with an aim to better serve college students with disabilities who are majoring in computing and IT.”

W. Richards Adrion, computer science professor and director of CAITE, said, “We are working to spread the message that computing, and science and technology fields in general, will benefit from the talents and perspectives that people with disabilities can bring. There are good resources to help schools and colleges meet and then go beyond the legal accessibility requirements for students. With these two events, we take a first step in making the Commonwealth a leader in educating students of all abilities to be successful contributors to our innovation economy.”

Resources from and related to the capacity-building institute can be found here.