Honors Seminar 3, Science & Technology in NYC

A City for Everyone: Science and Technology in NYC Benefiting People with Disabilities

 Syllabus for Fall 2008
CUNY Queens College



Dr. Matt Huenerfauth, Assistant Professor
Computer Science Department, CUNY Queens College
Computer Science Ph.D. Program, CUNY Graduate Center
Office: Science Building A330  (office may change during the semester)
Phone: 7 1 8 - 9 9 7 - 3 2 6 4
Email: matt (AT) cs (DOT) qc (DOT) cuny (DOT) edu
Web: http://eniac.cs.qc.cuny.edu/matt
Office Hours: Wednesdays 5:30pm to 6:30pm.

Technology Fellow:

Tsai-Shiou Hsieh, M.Sc., M.Phil.
Instructional Technology Fellow, Macaulay Honors College at Queens College
Doctoral Candidate, Environmental Psychology, CUNY Graduate Center
Email: tsaishiou (DOT) hsieh (AT) qc (DOT) cuny (DOT) edu

Class Schedule:

Monday afternoons, 1:40pm to 4:30pm.
Classroom: Temporary Building 3, Room 08.

Note: There are field trips tentatively planned during the semester.  The trips will be designed so that you can return to campus around 4:30pm on these days.  Because of unexpected traffic, there is a chance that we could be delayed.  If you think there will be a scheduling problem because of this, please see the instructor of this class as early as possible in the semester. 


This section of Honors Seminar 3 will examine how advances in science and technology have benefited people with disabilities.  We will focus on several forms of disability (hearing, vision, motor, learning, developmental, aging-related, and linguistic), and we will analyze the medical, social, legal, ethical, educational, community identity, and quality-of-life impact of each.  Students will explore how New York City addresses the needs of people with disabilities in the areas of public transportation, city services, government websites, museums, parks, cultural performances, and urban infrastructure (city streets, crossing signs, wheelchair ramps).  Students will learn about cutting-edge ways in which science and technology has provided assistance/accessibility for people with disabilities.  Students will learn how assistive technology researchers learn about the needs of their target users, design technology for some use, design an experiment to test the effectiveness of the technology, analyze the results, and then re-design the system.  This course will also include guest speakers and visits to locations around New York City relevant to services and technology for people with disabilities.

General Description for all sections of Honors 225:

Major scientific concepts and their relationship to technological developments that affect New York City. Topics vary according to the scientific expertise of the instructor and may include the following: genetic engineering, ecological determinants, energy issues, and AIDS or other diseases. Students will read scientific literature and learn the fundamentals of science necessary to understand the readings. Attention will also be given to the historical, ethical, legal, social, and economic ramifications of a topic.

General Learning Goals for all sections of Honors 225:

In the seminar, students will:

  1. Develop and demonstrate an awareness of the messiness and complexity of the progress of scientific knowledge by reading and writing about the intellectual roots of the seminar topic.
  2. Practice critical thinking through the evaluation of scientific and technological issues and the public presentation of their research.
  3. Learn to search literature on specific science and technology topics and to use the Internet to identify relevant data sources.
  4. Understand scientific principles by analyzing one or more problems in detail.


The public website for this course is: http://eniac.cs.qc.cuny.edu/matt/honors/

Lecture slides, assignments, and the latest syllabus version are only available on BlackBoard.



 Course Prerequisites:

HNRS-126 (Honors Seminar 2). 
All students must be in the William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY.

Required Readings/Media:

While most of the readings from the course won’t be from textbooks, we will be reading several chapters from Human Exceptionality: School, Community, and Family (by Michael L. Hardman, Clifford J. Drew, M. Winston Egan – this book has some really good one-chapter overviews of different forms of disability.  The 8th or 9th edition is fine.  It has been ordered by the bookstore. 

We will also be reading several chapters from the book: William C. Mann (editor), 2005, Smart Technology for Aging, Disability, and Independence: The State of the Science, Wiley & Sons.  It has been ordered by the bookstore. 

See the listing of readings on the calendar.  Many of these will be made available on e-Reserve or NetLibrary.

Policy on Student Responsibility for Accessing Materials Online:

It is your responsibility to successfully access required materials online so that they are available for you to read or use before class.  Because there can always be unexpected technological difficulties with accessing campus library websites or other resources from off-campus, you should download readings for class several days before you need them.  This will allow extra time for any technological problems.  Inability to access electronic materials the evening before class is not a good excuse for not completing the required reading assignments.

If you are encountering difficulties with accessing websites, and you believe the problem is an incorrect URL / web address, then you should contact the instructor.  There is a possibility that the website has been taken down, and the instructor will send out a new URL to the class. 

If you are encountering difficulties logging-in to a CUNY website or library resource, then you should contact the appropriate resources: the OCT Help Desk on campus, the Instructional Technology Fellow for this class, the Queens College library, etc.  They can help you learn how to access the CUNY library resources from your laptop.  Sometimes it will be easier to access readings from campus and save them onto a USB flash drive (memory stick) to read at home.

How to Access NetLibrary:

A few readings for this class will require you to access Queens College NetLibrary.  This is a website where you can access electronic books that the library has a subscription for.  It is much easier to access this resource from on-campus.  There are ways to set up an account if you want to access the website from home.  See the instructions below.

To access books on Queens College NetLibrary, go to: http://www.netlibrary.com/  

If you want to set up an account so that you can access the website from off-campus, then you must first log-in to the website from on campus.  Once you are logged-in, you should select the “create a free account” link at the top of the page.  After you have created an account while you are on campus, then you can log-in from anywhere to read the book online.

URLs on the Syllabus:

Please be careful when typing in URLs (web addresses) for some of the readings listed on the syllabus.  Because of the two-column format of the syllabus, it was necessary for some of the long URLs to “wrap around” on to multiple lines.  You may need to type in the URL as a single line in the “address” bar of your web browser.

How to Access E-Reserve:

Go to this URL:   http://www.reserve.qc.edu/eres/coursepage.aspx?cid=2749 

Use this password (I’ll tell you it in class, write it down here): __________________

How to Access BlackBoard:

Resources for logging in to BlackBoard and accessing the site are available below. 

Logging-In:   http://qcpages.qc.edu/edtech/BlackBoard/loggingOn.html

Using BlackBoard:  http://qcpages.qc.edu/edtech/BlackBoard/students.html

Grading Percentages:

In-Class Quizzes


Assignment #1 (personal statement / paper)


Assignment #2 (problem-solving / paper)


Assignment #3 (initial report / wiki)


Assignment #4 (poster)


Assignment #5 (final report / paper)


Class Participation


Note: For calculating your final grade in the course, the total score on the quizzes will be divided by the highest possible score on all quizzes.  This percentage will be multiplied by the 15% of your final grade for the course. 

Grading Equivalences:

Your final letter grade will be calculated as follows:

   100.0-96.67 = A+
   96.66-93.34 = A
   93.33-90.00 = A-
   89.99-86.67 = B+
   86.66-83.34 = B
   83.33-80.00 = B-
   79.99-76.67 = C+
   76.66-73.34 = C
   73.33-70.00 = C-
   69.99-66.67 = D+
   66.66-63.34 = D
   63.33-0.00 = F

In-Class Quizzes on the Readings:

At the start of most classes for which there are required readings, we will have a 3-minute mini-quiz.  It will be three or four short-answer questions that should be easy if you have done the readings for class that day.  These questions will be designed so that you do not need to study the readings in order to get full credit – you just need to do the readings and review them before class.  Most of the questions will be engineered so that they touch on a memorable fact in the reading.  (You should pay particular attention to any figures or images in the readings; you should also pay attention to any people or personal stories in the readings.  These often are the basis for a quiz question.)  While in-class quizzes can take up a little time, the level of discussion in class is so much better when everyone has done the reading.  Additionally, a major portion of the work you will do for this course is the assigned reading, and I want the course’s grading to reward those students who have spent their time on this part of the work.

In-Class Graded Activities Policy:

If for some reason you are unable to attend a quiz or other in-class graded activity (it is anticipated that the quizzes listed above would be the only in-class graded activity), you should contact the instructor ahead of time to discuss the circumstances.  Since the class meets once a week for a three-hour block of time, missing one class can put you significantly behind.  If advance notice is given and if the reason for missing class is a documented reason, then it may be possible to set up an alternate method of proving that you have done the readings (instead of the in-class quiz).  These arrangements would need to be established before the missed class.

Class Participation Policy:

Your class participation grade will be determined based on your attendance and active participation in class throughout the semester.  Participating in discussions, answering questions, reading assigned texts before class, and participating during in-class activities are all good ways to show "active participation."  There are also CUNY/Queens College policies that can become applicable if there is an excessive number of lateness or absences.

Being considerate of your fellow students in the classroom is also an important part of your "class participation" grade.  You can do this by not causing a distraction for your fellow classmates -- you can remember to turn off your cell phone before class, arrive on time for class, avoid side conversation or noise during class, etc. 

A good learning environment is also one in which everyone feels welcome and comfortable; so, please be respectful of the diversity of backgrounds, beliefs, and lifestyles of the students in our class. 

Grading Questions:

Your grades will be posted on BlackBoard during the semester.  If you have specific questions about your grade on an assignment, then the best way to proceed is to send an e-mail with your question to the instructor.  You should mention which problem/question you are referring to, and you should discuss why you feel the grade should be reexamined. 

Academic Integrity Policy:

The instructor will adhere to Queens College and CUNY policies on academic integrity.  Students who cheat on quizzes/exams or who plagiarize material for papers (submitting someone else’s work, failing to properly cite sources, or copy/paste information from the Internet) will be reported to the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs and will fail (0%) the quiz, project, or paper.  The Vice President’s office may pursue additional penalties beyond those affecting the grade in the course.

Students with Disabilities:

After registering with the Office of Special Services for Students with Disabilities (OSS), please feel free to make an appointment with the course instructor to discuss any academic accommodations you may need.  It is best if this is done at the beginning of the semester.  If you need academic accommodations and are not registered with the OSS, please contact them in person at 171 Kiely Hall or by telephone at 718-997-5870.  Upon individual request, this syllabus can be made available in alternative forms.  

Students with Other Concerns:

Students with academic or personal concerns beyond those related to this course are encouraged to contact Dr. Pamela Degotardi, the academic advisor for the Honors College at Queens College.  Her telephone number is 718-997-3183, and her e-mail address is: pdegotardi@hotmail.com




A detailed calendar for the course will be posted on BlackBoard.

Loosely, topics in the class will include:

·         Introductions, Overview of Syllabus, Course Topics. 

·         Terminology and Background, Forms of Disability, Science and Technology, Aspects of Disability: Medical, Legal, Social, Cultural, Educational, Economic.

·         Accessibility, Universal Design, the Digital Divide, and Assistive Technology.

·         Movement-Related Disabilities.

·         Vision-Related Disabilities.

·         Legal issues.

·         Hearing-Related Disabilities.

·         Disabilities Identity, Community, and Culture.

·         Cognitive and Learning Disabilities.

·         Access to Education.

·         Overview of the field of Accessibility and Assistive Technology research and major professional organizations.

·         Alternative and Augmentative Communication Devices.

·         Accessibility and assistive technologies for people with hearing-related disabilities: closed-captioning, speech recognition, hearing aids, cochlear implants, and sign language technologies.

·         The design cycle and scientific method, user-requirements gathering, prototyping, implementation, evaluation, and redesign.  Experimental design for evaluation: controls, placebos, and other factors.

·         Accessibility and assistive technologies for people with vision-related disabilities: screen-readers, speech-based software, Braille technologies, optical character recognition, mobility and location aids, computer vision systems.

·         Accessibility and assistive technologies for people with movement-related and cognitive disabilities: icon/picture-based interfaces, handheld accompaniment devices, speech synthesis systems, text simplification.

·         AT for Learning Disabilities

·         Building a research program at a university, writing proposals for grant money, institutional review board “human subjects” clearance, involving future users, and recruiting subjects.

·         How do researchers disseminate their work?  Forms of scientific writing and presentation, submission and review process for journals and conferences.

·         Course Wrap-Up

Readings and assignments for each day of class will be posted on the BlackBoard website.



Assignments will be posted on the Assignments page of the class website on BlackBoard as they are announced.  Tentatively, there will be two brief individual assignments during the semester.  The major focus of the course will be a research project that students will perform in groups.  In addition to the reports and presentation required for this project, it is a requirement of the CUNY Honors College that students in Seminar 3 produce a poster about their project to be presented at an Honors College event in Manhattan on December 2.

If an assignment will be submitted late, then you should discuss the circumstances ahead of time with the instructor.  Such assignments will be accepted on a case-by-case basis and a penalty percentage may apply. 

Very preliminary information about the assignments is included below.  Detailed information is available on the BlackBoard website for the course.

Assignment #1 (INDIVIDUAL):

Write a 2-page short statement about an experience you have had with someone with a disability.  This should preferably be a personal experience, but you can also discuss an individual known less directly or through popular media.  It can be someone you have known for years, someone you met briefly, or someone you’ve just read/heard about quite a lot. 

Assignment #2 (INDIVIDUAL):

Complete ONE of the three tasks below:

Assignments #3-#5 (GROUP PROJECT):

The final term project for the course will be a team project in which you will write an accessibility guide for students with various kinds of disabilities who would like to attend CUNY Queens College.  Your team will focus on a group of students with one kind of disability (vision, hearing, movement, etc.) – each team will focus on a different group.  The entire project will consist of several assignments that are due at various times throughout the second half of the semester.

·         Assignment #3: Wiki Website, Initial Report (this text will be reused in #5).

·         Assignment #4: Preparing and presenting a poster.

·         Assignment #5: Final Report (20-pages).



In addition to the links below, you may find the Disabilities/Accessibility room on the second floor of the mid-Manhattan branch of the New York Public Library (a few blocks from CUNY Graduate Center) a good resource.  It has circulating and reference books on assistive technology and disabilities.

Conferences related to Accessibility and Assistive Technology

ASSETS: ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility
Note: SIGACCESS was formerly known as SIGCAPH.

CSUN Technology for Persons with Disabilities Conference

IT Accessibility 2001

HCI International
(Special co-located event: UAHCI: Universal Access in Human-Computer Interaction)

RAT: Research on Assistive Technology

UI4ALL: User-Interface for All

ITiCSE: Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education

ICORR: International Conference on Rehabilitation Robotics

W4A: Cross-Disciplinary Conference on Web Accessibility

IEEE Conference on Advanced Learning Technologies

Cambridge Workshop on Universal Access

Hypertext and the Person

ACM SIGCHI: Human Factors in Computing

International Conference on Intelligent User Interfaces


TACCESS: ACM Transactions on Accessible Computing

Behaviour and Information Technology

UAIS: Universal Access in the Information Society

IBM Systems Journal: Special Issue on Accessibility

ACM SIGACCESS "Accessibility and Computing"

Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology

Assistive Technology: RESNA Journal

AT Quarterly


Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education

Other Resources

HCI Bibliography: Accessibility

AccessComputing Program: Careers for People with Disabilities

DO-IT Program: Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology

WAI: Web Accessibility Initiative

Wikipedia Entry on Assistive Technology

BOALT Disability Law Society