Honors Seminar 3: Science and Technology in New York City

Macaulay Honors College at Queens College, Fall 2011
Topic: "Accessibility Technology for People with Disabilities"
HNRS-225, Section 01-LEC(3403).


Dr. Matt Huenerfauth, Assistant Professor
Computer Science Department, CUNY Queens College
Computer Science and Linguistics Doctoral Programs, CUNY Graduate Center
Office: Science Building A102
Phone: 7 1 8 - 9 9 7 - 3 2 6 4
Email: matt(AT)cs.qc.cuny.edu
Web: http://eniac.cs.qc.cuny.edu/matt
Office Hours: Mondays 4:30pm-6:30pm. (Email first to confirm an appointment; sometimes in room A207A.)

Instructional Technology Fellow:

Soniya Munshi, Email: soniyamunshi(AT)gmail.com.
Doctoral Candidate, Sociology, CUNY Graduate Center.
Office hours: Monday 9-3pm, and by appointment in Honors Hall, Room 20.

Class Schedule:

Monday afternoons, 1:40pm to 4:30pm. Classroom: Honors Hall, Room 12. 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. 

Specific description for this section of Seminar 3:

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.

Description for all sections of Seminar 3, Macaulay Honors College:

In the third Honors College seminar, students will learn about major scientific concepts and their relationship to technological developments, using New York City as a template for the issues being faced by cities around the world. The topic of this interdisciplinary seminar will vary according to the scientific expertise and field of the instructor and might include one of the following: climate change, ecological issues, energy sources, medicine/public health, computers and information technology, security and counterterrorism technologies, and AIDS or other diseases. Students will read scientific literature and learn the fundamentals of science necessary to understand the key issues in a field – and how they impact public policy issues. Students will learn about the work of scientists and technologists in that discipline, and they will discuss the historical, ethical, legal, social, cultural, economic, and political ramifications of a topic. Collaborative learning through team research projects will culminate in presentations of results.

Learning Goals for all sections of Seminar 3, Macaulay Honors College:

In the seminar, students will:


The public (generic) 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. Go to Blackboard


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

Loosely, topics in the class will include:

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


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

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. In addition to describing the person and how you know (about) them, you should analyze the impact the disability may have had on that person from any FOUR of the following six perspectives: medical, social/interpersonal, legal/government/benefits, economic/work, educational, community/cultural, etc.

Assignment #2 (INDIVIDUAL):

Select one of the following three options for this assignment:

You should write a 2.5-page report that documents your problem-solving activities. What websites did you visit? Who did you talk to? What is the plan of action that you propose? You should document all of the details necessary for the logistics in a step-by-step manner, and you may use images and media to document your work. Further details and information resources for completing this assignment will be provided in class later in the semester.

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 project will consist of several assignments due at various times throughout the second half of the semester.

Assignment #3 is a Wiki report collaboratively written by your group that serves as the first portion of your project. Your team will create one (or maybe 2) hypothetical future college students who reflect some typical people with that disability, and you will outline relevant details of their life experience and accessibility challenges. Next, you will explain the set of activities required for them to attend CUNY Queens College. In particular, you should spend time carefully analyzing the tasks required for any activities of a college student that would present challenges for someone with that disability. The goal of this assignment is to identify all of the sub-tasks that are part of college attendance and to identify comprehensively all of the accessibility barriers that the hypothetical students may face.

Assignment #4 is the creation of a scientific poster (and oral presentation) about your team’s work to be presented at a Macaulay Honors College common event in early December in Manhattan. This assignment includes several deadlines throughout the semester: writing an abstract for your poster, designing your poster, meeting with the Instructional Technology Fellow to show your poster design, printing your poster, creating a PowerPoint presentation of your work, attending and presenting at the Macaulay Honors College Scientific Conference in December, and presenting your work in-class to your classmates during the final class of the semester.

Assignment #5 is a 20-page report of your work. Using the text from Assignment #3 as a starting point, now your group will offer specific recommendations on how the challenges you have identified could be addressed through various forms of assistive technology – or through other low-tech means that involve changes in policies, additional support services, classroom assignments, etc. The goal is to produce a detailed, comprehensive guidebook on how students with a particular type of disability could be successful at CUNY.


Course Prerequisites:

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

Required Readings/Media:

Human Exceptionality: School, Community, and Family (10th Edition), M.L. Hardman, C.J. Drew, M.W. Egan. ISBN: 0495810584. Retail Price: $125.

While most of the readings from the course won’t be from textbooks, we will be reading several chapters from Human Exceptionality – this book has some really good one-chapter overviews of different forms of disability.  The full list of readings is on the calendar.  These will be available on BlackBoard, online, e-reserve, or at the library.

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 Help Desk on campus, Instructional Technology Fellow for this class, 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 BlackBoard:

Go to this URL, click on name of this class: https://bbhosted.cuny.edu/webapps/login/NoPortal
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

Additional Policies:

This website is only an abbreviated version of the course information. Additional policies for this course and other key syllabus information are available online on the Blackboard website for this course. Go to Blackboard