JupyterCon 2023

Notebooks for All: Accessibility & Jupyter Notebooks
05-12, 15:00–15:30 (Europe/Paris), Gaston Berger

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).

Project repository

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.

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Jenn Kotler is the user experience designer at the Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes where she designs data search and analysis tools for telescope missions including Webb, Hubble, TESS, and Kepler, all available for free use. Her design goal is to make data easily accessible so everyone can do amazing science. She lives in a historic row house with her partner, creaking wood floors, a clawfoot bathtub, and a menagerie of mammals

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