Poetic Coding Workshop

A screen shot of Poetic Coding Workshop that was taught through zoom. There are four blind and low-vision students who look happy. There are two teachers present, Mr. Hui and Taeyoon Choi. There are also four other facilitators from CHAT and Taeyoon Studios.
A screen capture from Poetic Coding Workshop

Poetic Coding Workshop with
Ebenezer School and Home for the Visually Impaired

2/4, 2/8, 2/22, 2/25 2021

4 online workshops through zoom

Hong Kong, SAR, People’s Republic of China  

In this workshop Taeyoon Choi taught the students of Ebenezer School and Home for the Visually Impaired coding with HTML. Building upon the Touching the Internet workshop he led for the students in 2019, he taught the students through four sessions of remote, online workshops.

The Touching the Internet workshop consisted of making wearable technology with blind and low-vision students where we created a tactile way of experiencing the internet together.

Touching the Internet workshop from 2019. Taeyoon Choi and another teacher took a photo with one of the blind students from Ebenezer School and Home for the Visually Impaired. Everyone is wearing a dress created for the workshop, which is a tactile representation of the internet. From left to right, Taeyoon, the student, and the teacher is wearing yellow, blue, and green dresses. The student in the middle is holding his hand-sewn work of a representation of an internet network.
Touching the Internet workshop from 2019

This workshop is part of the public programs for Taeyoon Choi’s exhibition Interweaving Poetic Code at Centre for Heritage, Arts and Textile (CHAT). In the exhibition we value connecting with the local community, and Choi wanted to explore the tactility of textile and connect with code. This work is a continuation of his work in sharing code with disabled communities, spanning 10 years in different contexts, from the U.S. to South Korea.

6 students from the Ebenezer School and Home for the Visually Impaired are gathered around a table, touching each other's finished work of hand-sewn black felt and cloth network representations. They are all wearing uniforms from the school. Most of the students look happy and one of the students is crouched on the table.
Touching the Internet workshop from 2019

For the Poetic Coding workshop, students learned how to create a simple website using HTML, and learned to create ASCII art designs. The output of the coding workshop will be made into a knit output for tactile experience so that it can be experienced by the students.

The first 2 classes took place in zoom while the last two were in person, as the COVID restrictions loosened by late February in Hong Kong. There were 4 students in total, aged 12-13.

In terms of technical logistics, the students had access to PCs, some students needed to use NVDA (screen reading software) and notepad++ was used for coding as it was compatible with the screen reading software.

We had pre-workshop sessions with the facilitators from CHAT and Mr. Lai from the Ebenezer School, so that they would be able to know the run-through to understand the content and flow of the workshop. Having this support was tremendously helpful in facilitating the workshops smoothly. We also had a debrief with the CHAT team after the workshops to talk about what we could’ve done better, noticing how students were feeling, how we felt about the workshop.

All of our students except one student had low-vision rather than being completely blind, therefore we prepared a powerpoint with high contrast colors, with size 40-60 font. We created a website for lesson materials so that students who use screen readers have access to materials. Some of the materials that were hard for students to understand were translated so that they would have access to review the materials later. The school had a system of sending material kits to the students’ homes, which included capsule paper. The CHAT team also created knit samples for the students to give an example of the output for their code exercise.

One of the students, Billy Chen's work where he created an HTML webpage using different size headers and ASCII design using pre-formatted text. The website has a green background.
One of the students, Billy Chen’s output

During the first workshop, students learned about the basic structure of a HTML document. We talked to them about HTML tags, what HTML means, and what head, title, body, header, paragraph, and line break tags are. We spoke to them about the different sizes of headers, and how that is useful to people who use screen readers. Header tags (from h1 – h6) are an important tool for blind and low-vision communities who use screen readers for accessibility on the internet. It helps people jump from one topic to the next, without having to go through each paragraph.

We asked the students to write a short 200 word story about their house, using different headers, where each header is a different room of the house.

One of the students, Hailey Fong's work where she created an HTML webpage using different size headers and ASCII design using pre-formatted text. The website has a beige background.
One of the students, Hailey Fong’s output

Throughout the next few lessons, we used the <pre> or pre-formatted tag and asked students to create a poem within a 10 x 10 character limit so that it could be printed as a knit output. One of the students, Hailey Fong, used her screen reader and manipulated the words to create a sonic poem. We asked the students to play around with the spacing of the words, as it appears as is in the pre-formatted text.

Two sample knit output. It is a knit design of 3 by 3 asterisk stars, with teal and prussian blue alternating with the background and stars. This design uses an embossing technique, so the design pattern can be felt in a tactile manner. The size of the samples are compared to a quarter coin.
A sample knit output that was sent to students

Taeyoon Choi’s intention to engage with low-vision students was because he believes in supporting the self-determination of disabled communities through creative practice. Because of COVID-19, many circumstances for disabled communities have become aggravated in terms of access, isolation, and vulnerability with people’s health. Children’s education has also become compromised. Therefore, it is quite crucial to carry out pedagogical work for students like in the Ebenezer school, and prioritize them especially in these times. 

With the CHAT staff and Taeyoon Studios, we had conversations internally about how we should facilitate. Taeyoon Studios’ producer, Sonia, did some research on Disability Justice from the U.S. and disability movement in Korea, which was shared to the CHAT team. Carmen, who is part of the CHAT team gave us resources on best practices for accessibility. She used to work for the ADA for 3 years before joining CHAT, so she had a wealth of knowledge and resources focused on making things accessible to disabled communities. As non-disabled facilitators, we needed to have our foundations built internally to approach the students with care.

The final products from the students can be seen at CHAT’s store. The patterns were created by the students and the material of the product is a CHAT original knit laptop sleeve. All proceeds will go back to the Ebenezer School and Home for the Visually Impaired. Please feel free to check out our show, Interweaving Poetic Code and support the Ebenezer School.

Organizers + Co-facilitators
Taeyoon Choi
Suhyun Choi

Centre for Heritage, Arts and Textile, Hong Kong
Learning and Community team
Eugenia Law, Bruce Li, Carmen Cheung, Mizuki Takahashi

Ebenezer School and Home for the Visually Impaired
Computer teachers Mr. Lai and Mr. Hui