When I was in high school, my Computer Information Systems teacher hosted an Hour of Code event to encourage students to try a new programming language. While I already had an interested in computers and programming, a lot of introductory activities for programming I’d encountered up until that point had often been very confusing to navigate as a person with low vision, or required me to get assistance from a friend or teacher to read some of the documentation. While I don’t remember the exact activity I participated in, I was thrilled to discover that there were several options for participating in Hour of Code with assistive technology, and I was able to complete an activity on my own without having to ask for help. In honor of Computer Science Education Week, here are several options for participating in Hour of Code with low vision.
How to access Hour of Code activities
All activities for Hour of Code can be accessed through the Hour of Code website using a web browser with no additional downloads required. The majority of web activities can be completed on a computer, tablet, or smartphone, though there are also options for robotics and circuits, as well as activities for poor internet/no internet connections. I prefer to use either a desktop computer or tablet so that I can angle the screen closer to my face, and connected an external keyboard for typing.
Filter by assistive technology
Hour of Code features several activities that are compatible with popular assistive technology and accessibility tools across multiple grade levels and skill levels. Interested users can filter activities to include the following assistive technologies:
Screen reader compatible activities work with external screen reader software such as JAWS, TalkBack, or VoiceOver to read on-screen text and navigational controls and provide image descriptions when available.
Text-to-speech compatible activities have an option to have text read out loud within the web browser without having to enable additional screen reading software. Unlike screen readers, text-to-speech tools do not provide information on page navigation or other visual details other than text.
Activities with keyboard navigation can be completed without a mouse or touch screen input. Most activities that support keyboard navigation on Hour of Code also support screen readers, though this is not always the case.
Captions are available for multiple Hour of Code activities, though the font size of captions cannot be customized as of publishing time. All videos linked through YouTube have captions and can be adjusted accordingly within YouTube settings.
High-contrast compatible activities have simplified displays and colors, which is helpful for students with color deficiencies or who that prefer darker color schemes. If a high contrast mode is already enabled on a computer or other device, I recommend turning it off before starting the Hour of Code activity for the highest quality display.
- How To Use VoiceOver For Beginners
- Ways To Read Webpages Without A Traditional Screen Reader
- Choosing High Contrast Color Schemes For Low Vision
Quorum for screen readers
I first learned about the Quorum programming language through an Hour of Code activity I completed in college, and it’s one of the coolest tools for learning foundational programming skills, especially for those with an interest in data science and information processing. Quorum was developed with assistive technology users in mind to learn programming concepts that extend into other programming languages, and uses a fully accessible IDE to allow users to write and run their own programs using large print, a screen reader, keyboard access, or other tools. Users can choose to complete Quorum activities in the web browser as part of Hour of Code, or download the Quorum application to explore other activities.
A note on photosensitivity and vertigo
While none of the Hour of Code activities I have encountered featured strobe lights as of publishing time, teachers or other activity facilitators should screen activities for flickering or fast moving animations for students with light or motion sensitivity, especially activities for lower grades that may have more complex animations. Some of my additional recommendations for reducing adverse affects of flickering or fast-moving animations include:
- Completing activities in a well-lit room and with adequate screen brightness
- Having students work in pairs/pair programming to reduce the amount of time spent staring continuously at a screen
- Enabling high contrast mode, when available, which can reduce additional animations
- Configuring the tablet/phone/computer to turn off additional animations or flickering effects
- Photosensitivity in the Classroom
- How To Check Videos For Flashing Light Sensitivities
- Tips For Using Social Media With Photosensitivity
Adapting no-internet activities for low vision
In addition to web-based activities, Hour of Code offers several activities that can be completed without devices or internet access. Printed activities can be scaled for larger print sizes and can also be downloaded in digital formats and loaded onto another application- for example, I downloaded the CSFirst Unplugged activity to my iPad so that I could complete the activities with a notetaking app and stylus, using pinch-to-zoom to enlarge text.
- Notability and Low Vision Review
- Why I Prefer My Schoolwork Digitally: Updated Edition
- How To Create Tactile Images With Everyday Objects
Other tips for participating in Hour of Code with low vision
- Not all Hour of Code activities have built-in accessibility support, so I recommend giving students the option to choose an Hour of Code activity on their own instead of having the whole class complete the same activity
- Some activities that do not have built-in accessibility support can still be enlarged within the browser window using Zoom controls or a magnification app, or broadcast onto a larger screen for people working in pairs