For too long blind youth have been denied full participation in public school science classrooms. Are dissections too dangerous? Should blind youth sit on the sidelines rather than participate and make their own observations? Is it too difficult to understand the stars if you cannot visually observe them in the sky? The answer to these questions is most certainly "no," but all too often parents, teachers, and blind students are simply not aware of how a blind person might actively participate in these activities. Insufficient hands-on materials, few teachers who understand tactile learning, and lack of access to blind adult role models and resources have placed artificial barriers on blind youth in the sciences. The NFB Jernigan Institute recognizes the urgent need to address these artificial barriers and equip regular education teachers, parents, and blind youth themselves with the tools and knowledge to provide greater opportunities in science to blind youth across the nation.
In order to dramatically change the opportunities and resources available to blind youth in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects and careers, the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute has initiated a bold national vision for the next generation of blind explorers - the National Center for Blind Youth in Science (NCBYS).
The goals of the NCBYS are to:
Establish a center of excellence for resources and information about how blind youth can best learn and understand scientific and mathematical concepts
Promote opportunities for blind youth in science through demonstration projects, partnerships, and public education
Provide technical support to projects working to improve materials and instruction for blind youth in science and math
Provide a national mentoring program built on the foundations established by the blind professionals of the NFB Science and Engineering Division
Centralize research previously completed in this area and coordinate ongoing research efforts
The work of the NCBYS began in the summer of 2004 with the NFB Science Academy, the first ever series of summer programs developed and directed by the blind to teach science to blind youth. The Academy was a fantastic success, encouraging and inspiring all who participated. The NCBYS continues to build a presence with the development of this Web portal, funded through a grant from the National Science Foundation.
The NCBYS initiative is led by the innovative NFB Jernigan Institute and is supported by the NCBYS Advisory Work Group which includes individuals from the American Printing House for the Blind, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Whiting School of Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Tech University, as well as experienced educators and scientists who are themselves blind.