A research team in Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) is working to make science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects more accessible for students with learning disabilities, visual impairments or dyslexia.
The ECS STEMReader project was one of eight innovative schemes to share in £500,000 funding from the government’s Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) and the UK’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board. The project was part of the ‘Ready steady STEM’ competition managed by The Higher Education Academy. The funding has been used to help develop a tool to assist with reading aloud and comprehending mathematical symbols and notation. It is the first assistive technology to look at how to read aloud maths to meet the needs of students studying at schools, colleges and universities in the UK.
“Currently it is extremely difficult for a student with a print impairment, such as a visual impairment or dyslexia to use assistive technology to read aloud maths notation. These students are achieving lower success rates in STEM subjects and are underrepresented in STEM fields at university and in employment,” says project leader Professor Mike Wald.
STEMReader aims to allow students to hear maths notation read aloud and provides tools for helping to understand and navigate through the symbols.
“During the project we have worked with colleges and organisations across the UK to design STEMReader to meets their needs. We aim to make a significant step forward in reading aloud maths from those studying at foundation skills to those studying at universities and on into the workplace.”
A free trial version of STEMReader is due to be released in February and, alongside the team’s other assistive tools such as ATbar and Synote, will enable schools, colleges and universities to improve access to teaching and learning for student with disabilities.
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