Patrick Smyth is Chief Learner at Iota, an organization focused on accessible technical training, consulting, and infrastructure development. From 2019 to 2021, Patrick coordinated Columbia's Foundations for Research Computing, a program dedicated to building expertise and community around research computing at the university. Patrick is a blind researcher, developer, and entrepreneur who thinks critically about how infrastructure can create—or lower—barriers to entry in STEM research. In 2022-2023, Iota is working with Space Telescope Science Institute, the center that performs science operations for the Hubble and James Webb space telescopes, on Astronomy Notebooks for All, an initiative to make web-based scientific outputs more accessible to people with disabilities. Patrick is a Fulbright Fellow (Berlin, 2010) and received his PhD from The Graduate Center, CUNY.
This poster summarizes the "Astronomy Notebooks For All" project undertaken in 2022-2023 by Space Telescope Science Institute. We are researching how Jupyter Notebooks can be made more accessible through paid usability testing sessions with disabled developers, scientists, and students. Our focus is on the compatibility of Jupyter Notebooks with assistive technologies such as screen readers, magnification, and braille readers. Additionally, we are developing potential solutions for the problems we find that may be incorporated upstream into the wider Jupyter project.
This poster will examine:
- Accessibility issues with Jupyter Notebooks and how these problems frequently keep disabled people out of careers in data and bench sciences.
- Our user-centered method of tackling this difficult problem by cycling between paid usability feedback sessions with impacted users and implementation of accessibility enhancements. We repeat this until we create a benchmark notebook built with a more accessible structure to contribute back to the community.
- Stories of how Jupyter accessibility impacts community members, including case studies of people with disabilities deterred from pursuing careers in STEM by inaccessible tools.
- Specific problems we have uncovered so far and solutions we have tried for those problems. Solutions will focus on both individual authors and the wider codebase.
- Our team from a variety of organizations (Space Telescope Science Institute, Iota School, Quansight) with a diverse array of skills used in the project.
- How members of the Jupyter community can contribute to further work towards accessibility and inclusion in this area.
Jupyter Notebooks are a standard tool in data science and scientific research and are widely used to teach coding. Unfortunately, this important resource is currently difficult or impossible to use with assistive technologies such as screen readers. This shortcoming disproportionately burdens disabled people and in many cases blocks them from entering careers in STEM.
In 2022 and 2023, Space Telescope Science Institute, the center that performs scientific and research operations for the Hubble and James Webb space telescopes, has undertaken a project, Astronomy Notebooks for All, to research this problem and explore potential solutions through paid, user-centered feedback sessions with developers, scientists, and students with disabilities. In this talk, Jenn Kotler (Space Telescope Science Institute) and Patrick Smyth (Iota School) will discuss the results of this research and their implications for accessibility in Jupyter Notebooks. We will take a realistic look at how Jupyter Notebooks can fall short for people with disabilities by sharing individual stories of blind Jupyter users—people who have found success in STEM, but also those who were deterred by accessibility issues. Finally, we will consider accessibility work already done or under way to make Jupyter Notebooks more accessible, and strategize about ways the Jupyter community can come together to address these issues.
This talk is for a general audience, particularly for those who care about making our community more inclusive. It will be of particular interest to people who author Notebooks and want tips on how to make their work more accessible.
This work is funded by Space Telescope Science Institute. It is made possible by the efforts of the full Astronomy Notebooks for All team, including Dr. Erik J. Tollerud (STScI project scientist), Isabela Presedo-Floyd (UX/UI and Accessibility Designer at Quansight), and Dr. Tony Fast (scientist and open source advocate).