Our Space, Our Place, Inc. — Introducing Blind Youth to Coding

| Cheryl Cumings, OSOP Founder/Board President/Acting Director


Our Space Our Place, Inc. (OSOP) is a nonprofit organization housed at the Tobin Community Center in Roxbury which provides an after school and career exploration program for middle and high school youth who are blind.  OSOP emerged out of the desire of professionals who are blind and parents with children who are blind to improve the employment outcomes for the next generation of blind youth.

Using the Expanded Core Curriculum, a generally accepted framework of nine areas of instructions for youth who are blind, OSOP focused on developing skills in the areas of social interaction, recreation and fitness and age-appropriate career exploration. As a result, OSOP created a program which offers theater, dance, and visits to museums, running and other sports, tours of local companies, work experiences and exploration of careers.

For the last few years, the OSOP students have participated in the Boston Athletic Association 5K race. It is a point of pride that all of the students finish the race. Students have also had opportunities to work at the Museum of Fine Arts and at the Perkins Braille and Talking Book Library. The parents of the student who worked at the MFA expressed their appreciation for the experience, which gave their son a chance to learn about work. For the student who worked at the library, her teacher shared that because of the work experience, she could see a greater confidence in the student.

The most current data indicates only 42.6% of all working age individuals with significant vision loss are employed (https://nfb.org/blindness-statistics).

Recognizing the growing field of technology, we wanted to provide our students with an introduction to the skills needed to pursue employment.  We applied to Smarter in the City, because we wanted to expand our program to offer a coding workshop. Our goals are to introduce forty students who are blind to coding and to build connections with tech companies in the Boston area so as to introduce students to professionals in the tech field and to identify work experiences for students.

Our exploration of a tool which can be used to introduce blind youth to coding has so far shown that some of the tools are not accessible to students using assistive technology. We are nonetheless excited and are pursuing some ideas such as whether there are ways to make tactile the concepts of coding and whether creating games and/or music will allow students to learn code and to explore other aspects of the technology field.

We are seeking collaborators and sponsors. We are looking for people to join our Advisory Group who are curious and are excited to take an idea from exploration to reality.

Learn more about Our Space, Our Place, Inc. via their website and their Facebook page.

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