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Saturday exhibitors

Cambridge Rare Disease Network - RAREfest | Exhibit - Microsoft Research 1
Cambridge Rare Disease Network - RAREfest | Exhibit - Microsoft Research 2
Cambridge Rare Disease Network - RAREfest | Exhibit - Microsoft Research 3


Accessibility and Inclusion Apps

Synopsis: Project Torino is a Physical Programming Language that enables children with visual impairments to code. 

Allison Linn,  senior writer at Microsoft writes about the project:

“These days, most kids get their first introduction to coding through simplified tools that let them drag and drop blocks of commands, creating programs that can do things like navigating mazes or speed through space.

A team of Microsoft researchers and designers in the company’s Cambridge, UK, lab is taking that concept one step further. The team has created what they are calling a physical programming language. It’s a way for kids to physically create code by connecting pods together to build programs.

The system, called Project Torino, is designed to make sure that kids who have visual impairments or other challenges can participate in coding classes along with all their classmates.

Cecily Morrison,  Project Torino researcher, said “One of our key design principles was inclusion. We didn’t want to isolate these kids again. The idea was to create something that a whole mainstream class could use, and they could use together.”

The ultimate goal is even more ambitious: To get more kids with visual impairments and other challenges, such as dyslexia or autism, on the path to becoming software engineers and computer scientists.

“It’s clear that there’s a huge opportunity in professional computing jobs,” Morrison said. “This is a great career for a lot of kids who might have difficulty accessing other careers.”

A project like this can serve two goals: Technology companies say they are struggling with a “digital skills gap” that is leaving them without enough engineers and coders to meet their needs, and experts say it can be difficult for visually impaired people to find meaningful, accessible career paths.

The World Health Organization estimates that 285 million people worldwide are blind or visually impaired, and the vast majority of those people live in low-income settings. In the United Kingdom alone, the Royal National Institute of Blind People says only one in four working age adults who are blind or partially sighted are doing paid work.”

There are at least 30 rare conditions which affect people’s sight such as Alstrom Syndrome and Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neurology (LHON).

Click to visit Microsoft Research’s website, or read the full article by Allison Linn, senior writer at Microsoft.

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