Inclusivity and Accessibility
Outreach Across Languages
The medium of communication has a crucial role in how one's audience understands and responds to content, especially in a country such as India, where a huge diversity of communities with different linguistic backgrounds exist.
Thus, to expand our reach as far wide as possible, and make our outreach initiatives as accessible as possible, we ensured that we targeted our public engagement in as many languages as possible.
We designed a survey for high school students from grade 8 to grade 12, to assess their knowledge and opinions on, and perceptions of climate change, synthetic biology and the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).
We also included informative paragraphs about the greenhouse effect, synthetic biology, basic concepts about genes and DNA, in the survey to help students understand the terminology in later questions, and learn something new as they filled out the survey.
In order to maximize our reach, we translated this survey into 8 different regional languages: Hindi, Marathi, Kannada, Tamil, Malayalam, Bengali, Assamese, and Punjabi. We also made sure to test out the translations with native speakers. We reached out to organizations working in education and science outreach to spread the survey among schools across the country, to reach as many people as possible.
We conducted another international survey in collaboration with Team MSU_Maastricht, Team IISER Tirupati, and Team Aachen to better understand the general public's understanding and attitude towards synthetic biology and the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). The objective of the survey was not only to understand people's perception towards GMOs but also to analyze whether their perception was influenced by the geographical region they belonged to. The survey was distributed to people from all age groups and professional backgrounds and the questions were designed in such a way that no prior scientific knowledge was required and the language was easy to understand. The survey was translated into French, German, Bulgarian, and Turkish languages.
Educational Material Translations
To make our outreach initiatives accessible to many, we translated all of our outreach materials that were originally in English into Hindi and Marathi, which is the regional language of Maharashtra, where our institute is located.
We translated the activity book curated by our team into Marathi and contacted an NGO in Pune that works with economically disadvantaged students and students belonging to marginalized communities. We distributed the activity books to these students and discussed the contents with them in Hindi. You can read more about on our public engagement and education page here.
We also translated content created by Team SZU_China in Marathi as a collaborative initiative. You can read more about it on our collaborations page.
Outreach through Artistic Expression
Science is limitless and sometimes words aren't sufficient to embody the true essence of one's interpretation of the subject. Art transcends the boundaries and limitations of languages, allowing us to explore our worldview without using words or signs. Therefore, making science communication accessible and inclusive is best done using art as a medium of engagement. We thus organized an Art and Essay competition named Kalakriti. The topic of this competition was 'Combating Climate Change and Protecting the Earth'. The art competition was open to students of grades 1-12 irrespective of their linguistic background, geographic location or ethnicity. We contacted different schools in India and received an overwhelming response of 200 entries from all over the country. The participants were asked to set their imagination free and create their own interpretation of the topic which led to beautiful entries from the contestants, which you can check on our Public Engagement page here.
Outreach targeted toward Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students
When we were initially planning our outreach initiatives, we planned to use Indian Sign Language (ISL) to make a video on climate change and our project idea. But on speaking with Ms. Manisha Kamal, who is a teacher for students with special needs we learned that students belonging to marginalized and economically disadvantaged sections cannot access learning ISL.
We thus decided to create a medium not bound by any language, spoken or sign. We decided to contact the Drama Club of our institute to plan a collaborative initiative to produce a silent film under the guidance of Dr. Anil Zankar on rising carbon dioxide levels, the greenhouse effect and how our project can be used to combat the same. You can find the movie on our public engagement page here.
The silent film transcends all language barriers and is accessible to a wide audience. We also took special care to provide labels and references to make the film as easily understandable as possible.
SynBio 101: YouTube Series
'SynBio 101' is an educational video series that we posted on our YouTube channel to introduce the basics of synthetic biology to high school students in an immersive and engaging manner, using colorful hand-drawn diagrams and animations.
We have also taken care to provide english captions so that students can clearly understand the content, especially for students who may be hard of hearing.
Outreach targeted toward Visually Impaired Students
Bhoomi: An interactive webinar for students with visual impairment
To make our outreach initiatives more accessible, we organized an audio webinar on combating climate change using synthetic biology for visually impaired high school students. Since this webinar was meant for partially and completely blind students, planning an appropriate script was of utmost importance.
We consulted with Ms. Manisha Kamal from Girls Senior Secondary School in Delhi and Mrs. Aarti Takawane from NFBM Jagriti School for Blind Girls in Vadgaon, Maharashtra. Both of them have been teaching blind students for over a decade and were the ideal people to get inputs from. They stressed the importance of conducting the webinar in the language of touch, smell, and all the other stimuli barring the visual senses, and making the students as comfortable as possible.
Following their advice, we created our promotional and educational material such that all our students could relate to it and enjoy the learning process!
How Would the World Be (Song about Climate Change)
Born off the Audio Webinar, 'How Would the World Be' is a song about the beauty of Earth as we know it and how climate change can take away many of the things that are fundamental to the planet we live on.
The song was originally created as an entertaining end to the audio webinar, but we decided to record it professionally and put it up on our YouTube channel for a wider audience of listeners to enjoy and get inspired.
The students at the audio webinar enjoyed the song immensely as was conveyed by them dancing and swaying as one of our team members was singing it for them. The song really connected with the students and we treasured that with all our hearts.
Outreach targeted toward Economically Disadvantaged Students
Our team collaborated with Disha, a student-run social outreach initiative at our institute, that aims for socioeconomic equity through education. We hosted a webinar for students aged 13-16, that Disha engaged with regularly, most of whom were from Lamanvasti, a slum dwelling mainly of migrant workers near our institute.. It was a great learning experience for both the students and our team.
The students had varying levels of understanding on the scientific aspects of climate change, and we ensured that we began right from the basics to accommodate everybody. The students had questions and vivid discussions about the content, and the experience was immensely fulfilling and we hope to stay connected with these students even after the iGEM cycle is over.
Interactive sessions for Activity Book Distribution
To distribute our Activity Book, we thought it would be a good idea to visit Lamanvasti, a slum dwelling mainly of migrant workers near our institute. We distributed the activity books along with a bunch of other goodies to the children of Lamanvasti. We also visited the nearby Doorstep School, an NGO that teaches underprivileged kids, and the children of the housekeeping staff of our institute, to distribute the books and conducted an interactive session on climate change for them.
It was an absolute delight to meet them all and witness their wonder and excitement as they opened their new art kits and books!
Guess the Scientist
The research of scientists belonging to historically underrepresented demographics in science is often overlooked and does not receive the attention and appreciation it deserves. Therefore, as a part of our webinar on synthetic biology for students all over the world, we decided to host a game called Guess the Scientist. The game included descriptions of notable work by different scientists based on which the students were expected to guess their identity. This game was very enlightening for the participants, as they were introduced to and highlighted the notable research of scientists that weren't as popular in the public eye.
Inclusivity in Wiki
The wiki is the final form of one's iGEM project that the world sees. In showcasing our work, we made an attempt to make our content as accessible to as diverse a demographic as possible. Apart from the language and readability of documentation, there are many other avenues to improve content accessibility.
At the Wiki Workshop, we held during the Cyanobacteria Symposium we organized in collaboration with teams Stony Brook, Honk Kong HKU, and Toulouse INSA-UPS, we asked the speakers for advice for teams to make their wikis more accessible.
Based on the inputs we received in this workshop, we decided to make our wiki color scheme color-blind friendly. All our images (/non-text) have alt-text assigned to them that can be read out loud by screen readers. The text and colors are all well-contrasting, and we rebuilt all our graphs to have different discernable shapes marking the data points and we ran all graphs through a gray-scale test to ensure that all colours and shapes on our graphs were distinctly discernable.
Another important thing that we learned to keep in mind is the proper structuring of the code of the wiki. A layout of the page may be complicated, but should be written in a way that makes sense when read in a linear fashion too. We would also like to compile a few great resources that we came across here, in the hopes of aiding future iGEM teams in making their wikis more accessible.
https://webaim.org/resources/contrastchecker/ - Check how contrasting colors are on your wiki. A contrast ratio of at least 7:1 for normal text and 4.5:1 for large text is recommended.
https://2020.igem.org/Team:Leiden/Inclusion - An incredible resource to start off with.
https://static.igem.org/mediawiki/2020/f/f7/T--Waterloo--Inclusion_Handbook.pdf - Another great starting point for teams, their accessibility toolbar could be a great choice for iGEM wikis.
https://davidmathlogic.com/colorblind/ - Was indispensable for us; helped us finalize our colour scheme with ease. Very intuitive and easy to work with.
https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/grayscale-the-web-save-si/mblmpdpfppogibmoobibfannckeeleag - A chrome extension that shows you your browser in grayscale. Different color rendering styles are available in many browsers today including Chrome, but this extension makes it much easier.
https://getbootstrap.com/docs/4.0/getting-started/accessibility/ - Many wikis use bootstrap, and it’s important to understand where Bootstrap provides accessibility features built-in, and which of them may not.
https://tenon.io/ - Has limited free accessibility checks for your wikis.