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SBIR Phase I:Re-envisioning alt text for education through concurrent authoring and diagram design

Award Information
Agency: National Science Foundation
Branch: N/A
Contract: 2221722
Agency Tracking Number: 2221722
Amount: $275,000.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Solicitation Topic Code: HC
Solicitation Number: NSF 22-551
Solicitation Year: 2022
Award Year: 2023
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2023-03-01
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2024-02-29
Small Business Information
4735 Walnut Lake RD
Bloomfield Hills, MI 48301
United States
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: Yes
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 Julia Winter
 (248) 227-5095
Business Contact
 Julia Winter
Phone: (248) 227-5095
Research Institution

The broader impact/commercial potential of this Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project is to create a pathway to success in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) for all students, including those that are blind or have low vision (BLV), with a usable and effective description system for STEM diagrams. Only 3% of BLV individuals have been employed in a STEM field. The lack of accessible accommodations creates roadblocks for these students in STEM education throughout their academic journey, leading many students to give up, even though they have as much potential for academic success as the general population. All web-based, non-decorative diagrams are required to include alternative (alt) text descriptions for use with screen readers. Current methods for making STEM visualizations accessible through alt text are not scalable or amenable for use with dynamic digital media, nor is alt text standardized or proven usable by learners, resulting in lost learning opportunities for BLV students. The absence of reliable auto alt text generation is a roadblock for educational institutions and academic publishers to adopt new instructional technologies, as digital content and learning systems must include accommodations for accessibility. _x000D_
This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project will create a first-of-its kind system that generates descriptions of STEM diagrams as the educational resources are constructed. This project will go beyond current standards for accommodation, by creating an innovative layered approach to the alt text representation of STEM diagrams so that screen reader users can interact with the content in a manner that is best supported by their skills and prior knowledge. The technical objectives are to: 1) create a system that produces machine-readable configurations for the components of a diagram and spatial relationships between the components, and then generates a text-based description of the diagram and 2) devise a non-linear method for representing STEM content through a standardized system of representational layers within the description. Both the general description (objective 1) and layered description (objective 2) will be constructed by matching the diagram configuration to a context-driven lexicon._x000D_
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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