SAS and Sphero offer coding for visually impaired students

“Every student should have the opportunity to learn to code,” said Ed summers, director of accessibility at SAS. “With CodeSnaps’ interactive and personalized resources, teachers of students with visual impairments can find creative ways to integrate computer science into any subject, engaging students with sound and touch. “

What is CodeSnaps?

CodeSnaps is a free app that teaches coding basics by getting students to actively work together in a convenient way to control Sphero BOLT, a programmable robotic ball. Students work together to solve programming problems using tangible and printed coding blocks. When the blocks are scanned with the SAS CodeSnaps application, the encoding comes to life when the program is executed on the connected robot. SAS CodeSnaps printable blocks are available in over 10 languages ​​and now include an English Braille version designed specifically to work well for visually impaired students.

Plus, with no internet access required, CodeSnaps can be used in any learning environment, including traditional classrooms, outdoor environments, clubs, or even students learning at home. The collaborative coding business requires only one Sphero BOLT robot and one iPad, making it an inexpensive solution to introduce coding into an entire classroom.

Adapt CodeSnaps for teachers of visually impaired students

SAS worked with the Perkins School for the blind to adapt CodeSnaps to meet the needs of students with visual impairments or blindness. Adaptations included adding braille to a simplified set of code blocks and making it easier for teachers to produce the blocks. The lesson includes a tactile device (meter-meter) that students use to measure distances.

Diane brauner, director of Perkins’ Paths to Technology website, helped create activities that incorporate noise to help students perceive the robot’s movements. SAS tested the activities at a coding challenge with the Coding Club to the Governor Morehead School for the blind in Raleigh, North Carolina.

“No longer sitting on the sidelines or relying on descriptions from a sighted peer, blind or visually impaired students can fully participate in all aspects of the coding activity,” said Brauner. “With the physical course, SAS CodeSnaps braille blocks and a Sphero robot, blind and visually impaired students study the physical obstacle course, write code using SAS CodeSnaps braille blocks, and auditory the Sphero robot. SAS CodeSnaps and Sphero make every student a winner. “

Now, just in time for Computer Science Education Week in December, TVI anywhere can learn to conduct a similar lesson in their classrooms. A new webinar on collaborative coding for all students provides advice on:

  • Interact with the SAS CodeSnaps application and run an activity, with suggested modifications for visually impaired students.
  • Printing of SAS CodeSnaps code blocks in Braille and editing for tactile learners.
  • Setting up an obstacle course for the robot.
  • Create a lesson to implement in the classroom.

Make data science accessible

The CodeSnaps Lesson for TVI is SAS ‘latest effort to make data skills accessible to visually impaired people, who are often excluded from promising careers in STEM fields, including analytics and data science. No surprise, since most tables and charts are created exclusively for visual consumption.

In 2017, the company launched SAS Graphics Accelerator, a tool for make data visualizations accessible visually impaired people. SAS Graphics Accelerator dynamically generates alternate presentations of SAS data visualizations, including verbal descriptions, tabular data, and interactive sonication.

Sonication uses non-vocal sound to convey details on the graph. Users can explore bar charts, time series plots, heat maps, line charts, scatter plots, and histograms interactively, relying on sound rather than sight. Take, for example, a sound representation of an entire bar graph, which incorporates both location and height. As sound travels from the listener’s left ear to the right ear of the listener, indicating movement along the x-axis, the heights of the bars are represented by the pitch. A high score indicates a higher value.

SAS Graphics Accelerator also supports non-visual access to digital maps using spatial audio, a standard computer keyboard, and a video game controller. This new technology allows visually impaired or blind people to perceive cards in a way that was not possible before. A participatory library of non-visual digital maps uses sonication to convey distance, direction and direction and includes maps for many universities, schools for the blind, cities, national parks and other places.

About Sphero

Sphero is transforming K-12 education with accessible tools that encourage exploration, imagination and perseverance through STEAM and computing. With the help of educators around the world, Sphero enables learners of all backgrounds and abilities to discover their interests and passions while equipping them with the skills they need to be future agents of change in the world. With presences in both Boulder, CO, and Greenville, Texas, and remote employees based around the world, Sphero has become the market leader in EdTech solutions, loved by millions of educators, students and parents around the world. Learn more at

About SAS

SAS is the leader in analytics. Through innovative software and services, SAS empowers and inspires customers around the world to turn data into intelligence. SAS gives you THE POWER TO KNOW®.

SAS and all other SAS Institute Inc. product or service names are registered trademarks or trademarks of SAS Institute Inc. in the United States and other countries. ® indicates United States registration. Other brand and product names are trademarks of their respective companies. Copyright © 2021 SAS Institute Inc. All rights reserved.

Editorial contact:
Trent Smith
[email protected]


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