The initial post to this blog was made two months ago from the lovely Portland, Oregon airport (PDX), also the site of this post. The program committee for SIGCSE 2008 has been working hard to put together a comprehensive set of paper presentations, panels, special sessions and workshops to address the important issues in computing education from around the world. There are still some logistics to resolve, but we are optimistic that the schedule will be made public by the end of October 2007 (as planned). Again, I am amazed (for the 4th time) with how many people contribute submissions, reviews and sheer energy in processing these materials, persisting through many tough decisions as the schedule is never long enough to include all the material we really want to include.
So, while sitting in PDX (with great free wireless -- hear that PHL???), I discovered that President Bush proclaimed October 2007 as National Disability Employment Awareness Month -- I read through the White House press release, and I know that the President was too busy to compose it himself, but most of the proclamation seems reasonable -- I certainly agree that "It is important that we continue to expand on these opportunities [ADA] for Americans with disabilities by eliminating the barriers and false perceptions that hinder them from joining the workforce."
Who could argue with that goal? What I would like to concentrate on are the actual means to realize true accessibility, and since my expertise lies in computing education, I'll start there. Computing traditionally starts its approach to accessibility with assistive technology and HCI; these are important approaches, and have benefited many people with disabilities.
I would like to suggest that these approaches are not enough, and there are many computing educators who realize this point as well. I would argue that we need to actively seek expertise from learning researchers, colleagues, and especially from the students themselves. I would not be surprised to find that many of the obstacles encountered by students with disabilities are less physical/structural and more process/culture/incorrect assumptions.
And this is important work -- Jan Cuny (University of Oregon, photo left) has stated in a NYTimes article that also featured one of the keynote speakers for SIGCSE 2008, Ed Lazowska (and I'm paraphrasing, please forgive ...) that we need to discover more students with potential in computing from not just the traditional areas or there will be shortages of prepared professionals (i.e., we need to reach women, minorities, and those with disabilities) -- if only there was a conference that addressed this -- well, there are a few, including SIGCSE 2008, but also ASSETS, ITiCSE 2007, ....
OK, I feel better now -- SIGCSE 2008 is only a few months away -- I look forward to again discussing and reflecting on these and other issues involving computing education -- the program schedule, registration and hotel reservations should be open soon, so return here or visit the virtual home of SIGCSE 2008 so that you can visit the real home of the Symposium next March.
Now to return to my real home (miles to go before I sleep ...).