Empowering Data Vision: Data Science Course for Blind Individuals using Python

Text: PYTHON. Abstract schematic showing person's head in profile facing symbols representing data

Call for Participation: 

Second Smith-Kettlewell Summer Research Institute, “Empowering Data Vision: Data Science Course for Blind Individuals using Python”

The Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute, the University of Michigan and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are delighted to present our second on-line course dedicated to data science for blind individuals. 


This course, “Empowering Data Vision: A Data Science Course for Blind Individuals using Python,” will teach blind individuals the basics of using Python to interact with datasets. The course will be offered on Zoom from Aug 5-15, 2024. Read below for details about the course curriculum, eligibility and instructions on how to apply.

Course Objective

Our primary objective is to equip blind individuals with the tools and knowledge necessary to independently analyze and visualize data, contributing to a more inclusive data literacy movement. By doing so, we aim to increase their effectiveness in their professional careers and bridge the representation gap in the data science field.

Course Sponsor:

Funding for this Summer Research Institute is provided by the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) on Blindness and Low Vision at the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR).

Course Description

This course is specifically designed for blind individuals to explore data science using Python. It includes eight interactive sessions, each 3 hours long, delivered via Zoom and led by a blind programmer.  The course is designed for screen-reader users who rely on speech or braille as their primary means of interacting with software, though there is no requirement for users to have a braille display.

Our main focus in this summer’s course will be on working with data in Python.  The concepts taught, while centered around Python, can be easily applied to other programming languages too.

Our target learners are those who require data visualization skills in their academic or professional journey. This includes faculty, undergrad/graduate students, programmers, analysts, engineers, and scientists. 

This year, there are 30 places available on the course and it is open to BVI individuals anywhere in the world.

Participation in pre- and post-course interviews and surveys, as well as completing a short assignment after each session, will be requested for research purposes, but this is not a requirement for participating in the course.


Participants must:

•    Be 18 years or older.

•    Be proficient in Python or an equivalent programming language

      *Note: We will ask everyone to complete a small pre-course task in Python to ensure baseline knowledge on which the course can build.

•    Be an everyday screen reader user (e.g,. JAWS, NVDA, VoiceOver, ORCA, etc.) using speech output and/or braille display.

•    Have access to a laptop or desktop that can run Zoom, Visual Studio Code and Python. 

     *Note: All of these are free or open-source and we will help you get things set up prior to the start of the course.

•    Have access to a high-speed internet connection to enable participation in on-line classes.

•    Have a basic level of proficiency in computer programming, ideally in Python.

•    Have an immediate need for data visualization skills in their academic or professional careers.

Course Instructor

This year’s course will be taught by Ken Perry. Ken brings over three decades of experience in Access Technology and programming to the online learning world.  As a seasoned programmer proficient in multiple languages, he brings a wealth of knowledge and real-world experience to his role as a programming instructor. His passion for accessibility, coupled with his mastery of the craft, makes him a valuable mentor for aspiring developers. Through his teaching, Ken aims to inspire the next generation of programmers to create inclusive and innovative solutions for the future.

Ken will be assisted by both Dr. JooYoung Seo, who is an assistant professor in the School of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign,  and Dr. Sile O'Modhrain, Associate Professor of Information, School of Information at the University of Michigan. Dr. James Coughlan, Director of the Smith-Kettlewell Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) on Blindness and Low Vision, will provide overall guidance in developing this course.

Course Outline

Week 1: You will learn to use pandas with data frames and series,  data summarization, manipulation, transformation.

Week 2: You will learn to use multimodal data representation, e.g. sonification, textual description, etc.

Course Schedule:

The course will be offered across two weeks, with four three-hour sessions in each week, for a total of 24 hours.  The Times/Dates are as follows:

Session 1: Monday Aug 5,  8:00-11:00 PM US Eastern Time

Session 2: Tuesday Aug 6, 8:00-11:00 PM US Eastern Time 

Session 3: Wednesday Aug 7, 8:00-11:00 PM US Eastern Time

Session 4: Thursday Aug 8, 8:00-11:00 PM US Eastern Time


Session 5: Monday Aug 12, 8:00-11:00 PM US Eastern Time

Session 6: Tuesday Aug 13, 8:00-11:00 PM US Eastern Time

Session 7: Wednesday Aug 14, 8:00-11:00 PM US Eastern time

Session 8: Thursday Aug 15, 8:00-11:00 PM US Eastern time


In conjunction with the course, we will conduct a research study to evaluate its structure and content.  As noted above, participation in this study is not required as part of the course, but we appreciate input from anyone wishing to volunteer. For those who opt to participate in this  study, one-on-one interviews will be conducted in the week beginning July 29.

How to Apply

The closing date for applications is Wed May 15, 2024.  

If you wish to be considered for this year’s program, please follow this link to the application form:


If you would like more information about the program, please email:


We very much look forward to hearing from you.