Designing for Inclusive STEM: Extreme Makeover Edition

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Participate and share : Interactive lecture

Cynthia Curry  
Dr. Luis Perez  

The four POUR principles of accessibility will be applied to STEM-related course content. Common examples of materials will first be displayed in traditional formats, and participants will then learn how to create more accessible and inclusive versions with appropriate alternative text for images and other accessibility best practices.

Audience: Coaches, Curriculum/district specialists, Teachers
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices useful
Attendee device specification: Laptop: Mac, PC, Chromebook
Topic: Universal Design for Learning/differentiated learning
Grade level: PK-12
Subject area: Special education
ISTE Standards: For Educators:
  • Advocate for equitable access to educational technology, digital content and learning opportunities to meet the diverse needs of all students.
  • Use technology to create, adapt and personalize learning experiences that foster independent learning and accommodate learner differences and needs.
  • Explore and apply instructional design principles to create innovative digital learning environments that engage and support learning.
Additional detail: ISTE author presentation

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

The disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) have become highly attractive fields of study in high schools due to related career and economic opportunities, as well as financial incentives made possible through federal and university grants and scholarships to increase the U.S. science and engineering workforce. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, STEM jobs are projected to grow by almost 9% from 2014 to 2024, compared to 6% for non- STEM occupations. In addition to growth in job opportunities, STEM careers offer higher wages; workers in STEM jobs earned 29 percent more than their non-STEM counterparts in 2015, which was an increase from 26% in 2010. Despite career opportunities and economic affordances, a shortfall of STEM workers exists; the U.S. Department of Labor forecasted that 2.5 million job openings in STEM and STEM-related occupations would go unfilled in 2018 (Noonan, 2017). Increasing the number of people with disabilities who enter the STEM job market will contribute to filling this gap, while at the same time diversifying the field with creative ways of thinking that are frequently born out of their unique perspectives and life experiences.

One of the most basic barriers to learning STEM-related content is physical, sensory, and cognitive access to the educational materials and technologies selected and created for student learning. Textbooks, handouts, digital documents, videos, podcasts, websites, and learning management systems can have accessibility issues that interfere with the independence, participation, and academic progress of students with disabilities. By having the knowledge and skills to identify the features of accessible technologies and to create their own accessible educational materials, educators can remove barriers to the advancement of students with disabilities in STEM-related careers.

The promising news is that the authoring tools used by faculty to create their own course materials now often include options for adding accessibility into the content creation workflow. In this presentation, the POUR model from the W3C will be used as a guide faculty can use for creating more accessible educational materials.

The four principles of POUR will be applied to STEM-related course content through a series of material makeover demonstrations. Common examples of materials will be first displayed in traditional formats, followed by POUR-aligned accessible versions. Skills will include best practices for writing alt text and descriptions for technical images, charts, and graphics; creating closed captions and audio descriptions for videos used in STEM courses; tools and resources to make coding and basic computer science concepts accessible to all learners and more.


I- Introductions and Review of Goals, Definition of Key Terms (accessibility and UDL) (5 minutes)
II- Overview of POUR, with examples showing materials before and after accessibility has been added ("POURed") in (10 minutes)
III. Perceivable (20 minutes)
A. Identifying images with missing alternative text (demo)
B. Application to complex STEM Images - image description (activity -in pairs or groups)
C. Checking for color contrast (demo)
IV. Operable: Checking for keyboard accessibility with No Mouse Challenge (10 minutes)
V. Understandable and Robust: Checking for Accessibility (Hemingway App, WAVE, Office accessibility checker, Grackle for GSuite) (10 minutes)
IV- Q&A and wrap up with resources to learn more (5 minutes)

Supporting research

U.S. Office for Civil Rights Short Webinar on Online Education and Website Accessibility:
National AEM Center at CAST - Why provide AEM and accessible technologies?:
Higher Education Today - STEM Climate for Students with Disabilities:

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