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Computing, cognition, culture and blindness

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This chapter describes the initial findings of an investigation into the understanding of graphical interfaces by blind and visually impaired computer programmers. It has five objectives: 1) To help the reader understand the methods by which blind and visually impaired people are able to work with visual computer interfaces; 2) To inform educational methodologies for teaching students who are blind and visually impaired; 3) To help the reader understand more about the design of educational interfaces for blind and visually impaired people; 4) To highlight the need for more equality in education with computers; 5) And finally, to highlight the issue of equality for all disabled people when considering the design and use of technology in general. In order to address these objectives, this chapter discusses the findings of a series of four case studies of successful, professional computer programmers who were registered blind and formed the pilot study of a project given the acronym COMBINE (Computing and Blindness in Education). This project was designed to explore these programmers’ cultural experiences of education in the use of computers, their understanding of visual computer interfaces and also the cognitive models they employed when designing programs and interfaces.

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