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Making Forensic Science Accessible to Blind Students

  • Published: 2016-07-25 : Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry (
  • Synopsis: Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry and Penn State Science U are making forensic science accessible to blind students.

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Quote: "Science U and BBVS want students to know about the possibilities in this area that holds the keys to some of the fastest-growing occupations in the state."

At its annual Summer Academy on Penn State's University Park campus, Pennsylvania's Office of Vocational Rehabilitation is working with the university's Science U to make forensic science activities accessible to students who are blind or visually impaired.

Experts from Science U, who provide STEM-related curriculum and camps, teamed up with the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services to do a full-day series of activities to promote STEM, or science, technology, engineering, and mathematics - as possible fields for these students.

The students participated in various forensic science activities and lessons, culminating with solving a criminal case. The participants used various accessible technology and team work to follow clues to unlock the answers to the case. Throughout the day the students analyzed footprints, fingerprints, and blood splatters.

Science U and BBVS want students to know about the possibilities in this area that holds the keys to some of the fastest-growing occupations in the state.

"Often students who are blind or visually impaired are not included in these types of activities or programs," BBVS director Joe Strechay said. "But Science U approached the Summer Academy last summer about connecting to discuss the possibilities and it's worked out beautifully for everyone involved."

The Summer Academy is a three-week postsecondary and employment preparation program hosted at Penn State University by the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation's Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services and the Bureau of Special Education's PaTTAN. In its eighth year, the academy is hosting 24 high school students who are blind or visually impaired are staying on campus in the dorms while getting training in blindness compensatory skills designed around success in education, employment, and life.

The Summer Academy was named a national best practice involving post-secondary preparation by the U.S. Department of Education. The program includes training in the use of various assistive technologies and the accessibility of mainstream products. The innovative team worked with Science U to make the program accessible with the use of smartphone apps, 3-D prints, and tactile graphics.

Training around the campus includes how to travel safely and independently in your environment, college daily living skills, and vocational exploration, mentoring, experiencing college classes, and receiving college credit for full participation in the program. The days are packed with activities from early morning until late at night. Summer Academy culminates with a graduation ceremony and a Career Day. The Career Day will include multiple engineers who are blind or visually impaired, a NASA Engineer / Registered Patent Attorney, and various others. BBVS is already planning with Science U for full week at the end of the 2017 Summer Academy specific to a STEM concentration.

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