Blind Student & Screen Reader with IDE

Hello all. I am a college professor of an introduction to computers class. I have used Processing to give my students a taste of coding without overwhelming them with too much syntax, but to dip their feet in the baby pool so to speak. They do about four activities with Processing. This semester, I will have a student who is visually impaired/blind. I have a few questions that I hope people might be able to help. 1. Can the Processing IDE be used by a screen reader or JAWS (Job Access With Speech) software. 2. Would processing be the right programming language for my student? 3. If not Processing, are there other programming IDE recommendations for beginners that is screen reader compatible? Thank you for the help.


Hey @squascha21! I wish i had a better answer to your specific questions, but unfortunately, I’m not experienced with that. Correct me if i’m misreading, but it sounds like the class is a general computers class, not specifically an intro to programming, and the Processing is just a way to experience one of the many things the students can do with the machines? Having worked in Disability Services at a college for a while, years back, my experience was mostly transcribing for Deaf, hearing impaired, learning disabled, or brain injured students. So i don’t have specific Blind/visually impaired experience.

I can say, if there’s a low-vision or a cognitive processing issue, font choice can help, as well as foreground/background changes. Obviously, each student will find different fonts easy to read. Amusingly, a few students i worked with really preferred a larger Comic Sans. They’ll know what works for them.

In the situation where the student is Blind with no ability to read a screen with their eyes, I’m just brainstorming. There is an Accessibility targeted language called Quorum. That might be a nice option for the entire class to see you can do the same thing, simply, in multiple languages if you understand Programming Concepts.

I’ve read that a lot of the things we do visually to make coding seem logical like formatting/indenting, and all our fiddly punctuation and brackets/braces/parens can be extremely confusing on a screen reader. We can block code to a logical structure using whitespace. Our visual interpretation ignores the whitespace and groups the code. Screen-readers can make that incredibly difficult to follow along with because it accounts for the whitespace and is arbitrary information they have to keep track of in their head while they’re essentially memorizing the code structure in their head. So Blind coders will often work without indents or unnecessary whitespace. Processing in Java mode is nice in that it doesn’t require whitespace formatting like Python (even though Blind programmers do use Python.)

I think the key could be to present all the options of accessibility to the entire class so as not to single anyone out, and work collaboratively to find the best solution. Hopefully you figure something out and i’d be curious as to what you do find!

Hi, thank you for the detailed explanation and providing your advice and insight. I will try to connect with other people and try to figure something out. I will let you know.

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