Thursday, May 16, 2024 is Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), a day to get everyone talking, thinking, and learning about digital access and inclusion for people with disabilities and impairments.

This GAAD, we’re spotlighting digital accessibility work at City Colleges. Digital accessibility refers to the ability of people with disabilities/impairments to independently consume and/or interact with digital content. Learn more about two students from Wright College and their professor who are working on a new textbook and why prioritizing accessibility is a top focus for them.

Students from Professor Hellen Colman’s Math 299 class at Wilbur Wright College have created a way to fill a critical gap in educational resources. Their online interactive textbook titled “Discrete Math with SageMath: Learn Math with Open-Source Software” is an accessible and comprehensive learning material for the study of computer science and mathematics.

Students Zunaid Ahmed and Samuel Lubliner and their professor, Dr. Hellen Colman, created this textbook based on their previous experience in Math 146. They felt that course’s textbook didn’t provide the most up-to-date and vital information for their studies. They also felt it wasn’t as accessible for undergraduate students as it could be. They took matters into their own hands to create a resource they wish they had when they took Math 146.

“Each week, students wrote a chapter of this book,” Dr. Colman shared. “They found the topics and found their voice. We critically analyzed their writing and they edited again and again. They wrote code, tested it, and polished it. In the process we all learned so much about Sage and we found some bugs in the software that are now in the process of being fixed thanks to its very active community of developers.”

This textbook is designed to serve as an essential guide for students, particularly those enrolled in the Discrete Math course at City Colleges. What sets this textbook apart is its integration of SageMath, an open-source mathematical software system, making the learning experience more interactive and engaging. Accessibility was also a top concern in creating the textbook.

“Making this textbook accessible was a priority because we believe in democratizing education,” said Zunaid. “Everyone should have the opportunity to learn and excel in discrete mathematics, no matter their starting point. By lowering barriers to entry, we’re opening doors for countless learners to explore, understand, and innovate.”

Now that the first draft of the textbook is complete, the focus shifts to peer review, ensuring that the content meets rigorous academic standards and is accessible to a wide range of learners. The students are exploring avenues to make the text available to a larger audience. They are actively engaging with organizations such as the Wright College Library, Open Educational Resources (OER) Task Force, Runestone, and LibreTexts, among others, to understand the publishing process and maximize the reach.

“The beauty of open resources is that they grow over time with the community contributions. The future of the textbook is very bright,” said Dr. Colman.

You can find the textbook here.