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PSU offering new design class focused on inclusion

The department of graphics and imaging technology (GIT) is now offering a design class aimed at expanding accessibility for consumers with disabilities. 

The class was created by associate professor Andrea Kent-McConnaughey and she created the class to better serve consumers who may live with a visual impairment such as blindness. The class aligns closely with the recent initiatives in diversity and inclusion by the university. The class is called “Inclusive Design.” Kent-McConnaughey also invited students from the Kansas State School of the Blind to discuss accessibility and the class in October. Faculty from the school encouraged students to promote disability awareness and inclusion in their design projects, as well as give them experience with the various accessibility tools available to people with visual impairments. 

“The class focuses on diversity, inclusivity, and accessibility and how we approach those topics in graphics mediums,” Kent-McConnaughey said. “The overall objectives of this course closely align with the recent university initiatives.” 

Students in the course meet every Friday for two hours and discuss topics in inclusion and diversity and how it applies to graphics. These may include creating clothing with clear tactile markers to help people living with blindness or creating graphic displays that more accessible for those who live with colorblindness. According to students in the class, the course also brings in guest speakers or agencies that can give a real-world perspective on the field of inclusive design. 

“Our students will get to see the technology first-hand, as well as experience their own observations about how individuals (with visual impairments) use the technology and strategies that can be used to build accessible media,” Kent-McConnaughey said. 

Some of the technology that the course allows students to get first-hand experience with include a machine that can make raised line drawings which can be read with fingers, an essential accessibility development for those living with blindness. The students also get experience with the next generation of Braille embossing machines. These more recent developments allow for more accessible sheet music for musicians to read with a greater degree of clarity and comfort. 

“Every design class, I kept thinking about human interaction,” said Molly Crager, senior in graphic communications with an emphasis in web and interactive media. “It’s so exciting and so interesting to have this class now. All of what we’re learning and experiencing feels like things we can immediately use not just as designers, but as people.” 

According to the National Federation of the Blind, there are approximately seven million adults living with blindness in the United States. These statistics do not include only those with full visual impairment as in they have no sight whatsoever, but also those with limited visual impairments such as legal blindness or degenerative diseases that will eventually cause them to lose all their sight, but they still currently have sight. 

“The world is changing, and we want to make sure that everyone can experience what we create,” Crager said. “Why would we want to design it if it’s exclusive to just one group of people?” 

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