College-bound students with visual impairments learn to independently analyze data


This summer the Accessibility and Applied Assistive Technology team at SAS launched a new course that teaches students with visual impairments how to independently analyze data, which is a critical skill that all students need for success in college and their careers. However, many students with visual impairments don’t have access to the tools they need to succeed.

closeup of teacher and student hands on a laptop keyboard

Karen Blake, of the North Carolina Division of Services for the Blind Career and Training Center, works to fill those gaps. Blake is a college prep and assistive technology teacher who runs a three-week summer program specifically designed for college-bound students with visual impairments.

Blake invited SAS to help the students learn how to independently analyze data and form their own conclusions. After completing the six-hour course, one of the students enthusiastically declared, “Now I am ready to take statistics!”

The course, entitled, “Introduction to Data Analysis Using SAS® Graphics Accelerator,” uses free SAS® software that enables people with visual impairments to explore data and graphs using non-visual methods such as sonification. Sonification uses sound to convey spatial information. The course materials are available for all teachers and students to access on the SAS Support Site.

Blake was thrilled with the results of the course. “It’s awesome that with Graphics Accelerator students can independently create and analyze graphs,” she said. “I plan on sharing this tool with colleagues and training all students who enroll in College Prep class. College instructors must become familiar with this tool and utilize it!”

SAS Graphics Accelerator was initially released in March 2017. Due to feedback from educators of students with visual impairments, the SAS accessibility team enhanced the product to enable students with visual impairments to interactively explore small data sets using sonification and descriptive statistics.

“The students with visual impairments that start college today will enter the workforce in just a few years,” Ed Summers, Director of Accessibility here at SAS, said. “Our goal is to give them the accessible tools they need to succeed in school so they can directly transition into productive employment using SAS products.”

The impact that the SAS accessibility team will have on the 58 North Carolina community colleges and our 1 million students is immeasurable.

—Darrin Evans, Director of the Wake Tech Virtual Learning Center

Diane Brauner from the Perkins School for the Blind also observed the class. She manages the Paths to Technology website, which helps educators around the world learn how to implement accessible technology for students with visual impairments. She published a series of blog posts that promotes the one-day course and SAS Graphics Accelerator to all educators of students with visual impairment and blindness:

Darrin Evans, Director of the Wake Tech Virtual Learning Center and coordinator of accessibility across all community colleges in North Carolina, also attended the class. “The impact that the SAS accessibility team will have on the 58 North Carolina community colleges and our 1 million students is immeasurable,” Evans said. “The software also has implications far beyond the disability community; the sonification will help us reach students with auditory learning styles, and it will make teaching charts and graphs more effective for all of our students.”

Learn more about the SAS Graphics Accelerator from Distinguished Technical Leader Ed Summers in the video below.


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Lisa Morton

Senior R&D Project Manager

Lisa is a Senior R&D Project Manager.

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