Accessible Science Labs
Table of Contents
I am looking for interested students, other researchers, and stakeholders to collaborate on this project.
If you want to contribute to this project, read this post and contact me.
The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 (RPD 2016) states that educational institutes should “provide reasonable accommodation according to the individual’s requirements and provide necessary support, individualised or otherwise, in environments that maximise academic and social development consistent with the goal of full inclusion” (Art. 16(iii-iv)). However, about 75% of children with disabilities (CWD) in India do not attend any educational institute in their lifetime. CWDs are poorly represented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, partly because CWDs face access challenges to typical science labs in secondary, higher secondary and university settings. Access barriers may prevent students from gaining knowledge, demonstrating knowledge, and fully participating in lab activities.
We designed an Assistive Technology, SAlly (short for science accessibility or science ally), to address these challenges as part of the EMPOWER-2022 student design challenge. It uses sensors to measure liquids in a beaker accurately. Thus, using the current prototype of SAlly, a visually impaired student can:
- Identify various chemicals using accessible labels on the containers
- Independently measure and pour out the required quantity of a liquid.
We conducted user studies of our prototype with visually impaired students and their teachers in a school in Goa. Based on the feedback, we plan to refine the project to achieve these objectives:
- Categorise the science experiments in Grades 6-12 in the NCERT curriculum so that similar experiments can be grouped and made accessible using the same technological innovation.
- Modify and enhance the existing prototype to enable visually impaired students to independently pour out accurate volumes and identify a change in the colour of a chemical as a result of a reaction.
- Create a lab manual that enables blind students to utilise our device to carry out experiments and for their educators to guide them.
We will evaluate existing sensors and smart devices that can identify changes in the colour of a liquid and incorporate the appropriate one in our prototype. We will then internally test the prototype with BITS students, followed by user testing with visually impaired students and their teachers in different contexts.