K-12 Web Resources For Science, Engineering And Math
The World Wide Web holds the promise of being the most powerful tool for accessing information in a wide range of subject areas. Because our nation places a high value on education, particularly in the areas of science, engineering and math, knowledge of Web-based resources in these areas is essential for people with disabilities.
Researching this article has lead this author to two disturbing conclusions. There are very few specific special education resources in the area of science, engineering and math (SEM), and many of these resources are not offered in an accessible format. Many of the urls listed here are given as potential resources with comments as to why they were chosen.
This site was created with help from NASA and was developed with special needs students in mind. A text version of the page is the first item that one encounters upon retrieving the page, which makes it accessible to all users. Math problems are designed around situations that might occur in dealing with airplanes.
Frank Potter's Science Gems
If you visit this site, make sure you pack a lunch because it is packed with information in each of the areas covered in this article. The developer does a nice job of categorizing areas by subject and grade level. Although the site was not designed with access in mind, it is relatively user-friendly.
Smart Elec Page - Calculators
Although this page is not user friendly, it deserves mention because there are a number of calculators here that show promise for use by special needs students.
Blue Web'n Mathematics
This site would be difficult to access for users who have difficulty navigating frames, but there are a number of resources linked from the page that have real value. The KQED Center for Life Long Learning is one of these resources.
This site deserves mention both for content and accessibility. The url given is for the textual menu version of the site. There is a rich graphical version as well. Some unusual lessons, such as the mathematics of knots, are featured.
The Math Forum
The Math Forum is valuable for the resources in higher math. The site is organized around four basic components which helps the user navigate successfully and quickly. The four parts are: Student's Center, Teacher's Place, Research Division, and Parents and Citizens.
The MIT Biology Hypertext Book
While it takes some time to get where you are going here (which is the actual hypertext book), the route is fairly clear. Once the user locates the book chapters, the Biology Hypertext Book is well done. Each chapter has some graphics, but the book is primarily textual.
Science Learning Network
Funded in part by the National Science Foundation, this site has enough to keep you clicking for a long time. The science of cycling and the science of hockey are two of many interesting features of this page. All images have proper html coding, which makes the site speech-friendly.
This is truly a text friendly site and the best site I have seen for an introduction to chemistry. Great for upper high school and beginning college students. This site does not get caught up in graphic overload.
Karl's Calculus Tutor
This site is similar to Chemtutor in its user-friendly layout. The site developer gives his email address and welcomes those who need help to write him.
There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Web resources in the area of science, engineering and math. While it sounds promising, the truth is that for the special needs student, the news is not all positive. While the Web holds the opportunity to access SEM information, unless Web developers consider access for ALL people, opportunity will fall into a black hole. This is particularly true for blind and low-vision users.
What can be done? On almost every page on the World Wide Web, there is a link to a human being who either has created the page or who is responsible for page content. Visitors can comment on what is available or suggest ways that the page might be improved. If every visitor who is concerned about access to the Web would become an advocate by writing to Webmasters or contact people, it would make a difference.
There is a great deal of information on the Web about how to make pages accessible to all people. The EASI link to accessible design resources is a good resource to recommend to developers.
In most cases, access is not a consideration in page development because of lack of awareness on the part of the page designers. I have found that once Webmasters are made aware that their pages pose problems for people, they are open to considering accommodations for the population of Web users with special needs. I hope that readers will become advocates for universal access to the Web, so that an important segment of our population can reap the full benefit of this powerful information resource.