University of Illinois School of Information Sciences Awarded Three-Year $498K IMLS Grant to Create Accessible Library Makerspaces
Library makerspaces offer community members the opportunity to tinker, design, experiment, and create with a range of technology in an informal learning space. However, because current makerspaces and maker tools are highly vision oriented, blind and visually impaired (BVI) people have limited access to these learning opportunities. A new project being led by Assistant Professor JooYoung Seo and Associate Professor Kyungwon Koh, Director at the CU Community Fab Lab, seeks to address this problem by creating accessible maker programs for BVI learners and developing training materials for librarians and maker professionals on accessible making. The researchers were recently awarded a three-year $498,638 National Leadership grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS grant LG-252360-OLS-22) for their project, “Promoting Computational Thinking Skills for Blind and Visually Impaired Teens Through Accessible Library Makerspaces.”
For the project, the iSchool and CU Community Fab Lab will partner with the American Printing House for the Blind, Young Adult Library Services Association, and Reaching Across Illinois Library System Makerspace Networking Group. The research also has received support from the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and the Disability Resources and Educational Services (DRES) and Information Accessibility Design and Policy (IADP) program at the University of Illinois. Activities will include training maker professionals and conducting an accessibility status assessment, hosting a summer camp with BVI teens to co-design accessible maker curriculum, testing the developed accessible maker programs in four Illinois library makerspaces, and training library users who will benefit from a more inclusive and accessible makerspace.
“Just as curb cuts help more than a person who uses a wheelchair, accessibility features added to maker tools and learning materials can make the system more usable by everyone,” said Seo. “The tangible making activities and integrated curricula in our project will bring the current maker movement a new insight into how we can broaden the participation of maker and STEM learning for underserved populations of diverse abilities.”
Koh’s areas of expertise include digital youth, the maker movement, learning and community engagement through libraries, human information behavior, and competencies for information professionals. She holds an MS and PhD in library and information studies from Florida State University.
Seo’s research focuses on how to make computational literacy more accessible to people with dis/abilities using multimodal data representation. He is an RStudio double-certified data science instructor and accessibility expert who is certified by the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP). Seo earned his PhD from the Learning, Design, and Technology Program at Pennsylvania State University.
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About Gary Price
Gary Price (email@example.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com.