Smith-Kettlewell Summer Institute

Graphic showing STEM icons including a chemistry beaker, atom with electron orbits, and a mathematical square root symbol

The Smith-Kettlewell Summer Institute program is a multi-year, learning opportunity designed to provide training for blind and visually impaired students, recent graduates, and early career researchers interested in data skills that will enhance Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) jobs within industry, government, non-profit organizations or academia. 

In today’s research climate, individuals are expected to have many skills at their fingertips. Often researchers are required to build software and hardware environments to run studies, to gather and analyze data and to prepare reports and papers for academic journals. For blind and visually impaired (BVI) individuals making their way through undergraduate and graduate degrees there may not be time or resources to support them in finding accessible tools or methods to acquire the variety of skills they need. Acknowledging this, the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute has obtained support from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDDLR) through a Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center grant, to pilot and run a series of summer research institutes that aim to bridge this gap.

There is a rapidly growing world-wide community of BVI people taking on leadership roles as researchers in industry, government, academia and the non-profit sector. The Summer Research Institute will draw on this community to build a faculty team that can respond to the needs identified through this application process, in order to deliver training through a program that is born-accessible.

A pilot version of the SI program (a Zoom course held Aug, 2023), ""Empowering Data Vision: A Data Science Course for Blind Individuals," taught by  Dr. JooYoung Seo in collaboration with Dr. Sile O'Modhrain focused on non-visual data visualization and exploration using the R programming language. A peer-reviewed conference publication describing and analyzing the experience is in press; a pre-print is available here.

The next installment of the SI program August, 2024, “Empowering Data Vision: Data Science Course for Blind Individuals using Python,” is a similar data visualization course this time based in the popular Python programming language. The zoom-based class will be taught by Ken Perry (American Printing House for the Blind, Senior Software Engineer and Instructor of Programming) in collaboration with Dr. Sile O'Modhrain and Dr. JooYoung Seo. The course is free of charge and open to people age 18 and higher anywhere in the world. Applications for the course are due by May 1, 2024 at this link.