This page features all the articles from the AccessComputing News - July 2021 newsletter. This newsletter can also be viewed article by article on the AccessComputing News - July 2021 page.

AccessComputing Team Members Complete PhDs

Multiple AccessComputing Team Members graduated with PhDs this year. Congratulations to them all. Below are the students who announced their graduation and let us know what the future holds:

Anna Kirkpatrick received her PhD from Georgia Tech with a dissertation titled “A Combinatorial Approach to Biological Structures and Networks in Predictive Medicine." Her research focuses on applying techniques from mathematics and computer science (CS) to problems in biology and medicine. Anna will be joining SAS as a senior analytical consultant on projects involving fraud detection for financial transactions. Last fall, Anna presented on an AccessCSforAll webinar about Optimizing Eye Gaze Input for Computer Programming.
Sean Mealin was the first blind PhD recipient from the Department of Computer Science at North Carolina State University (NCSU). His dissertation titled "Objective Evaluation of Young Guide Dogs to Predict Training Success" focused on using technology to better train and evaluate guide dogs. Sean is also working at SAS. After two internships there, he returned as a software developer working on accessible data visualization for people with visual disabilities. The NCSU College of Engineering shared about Sean in their article First Blind PhD Student Graduates from the Department of Computer Science.
Joo Young Seo graduated from Penn State University with a PhD in learning, design, and technology. His dissertation research employed computational ethnography based on knowledge discovery in databases (KDD) that combines reproducible data science, computational linguistics, and machine learning with conventional ethnographic perspectives on a large-scale and big-data-sized textual archives longitudinally produced by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) mailing listservs. Through rigorous mixed-methods, he strives to uncover informal learning cultures and shared knowledge patterns of blind individuals pursuing STEM disciplines to better identify the challenges and solutions of current STEM accessibility voiced by the world’s largest blind community. He is an incoming assistant professor in the School of Information Sciences (iSchool) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Daniel Seita graduated from University of California Berkeley with a PhD in CS. His dissertation research was titled “Robot Learning and Deformable Manipulation Using Simulated Interactions, Architectural Priors, and Curricula.” He is interested in developing robotic systems for deployment in complex, unstructured environments, such as in surgical robotics and assistive home robotics. He will be starting a postdoc at the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University, working with David Held.
Kevin Currin graduated in December with a PhD in bioinformatics and computational biology from the University of North Carolina (UNC) Chapel Hill. His research interests are genomics and computational biology; his dissertation is titled: "Chromatin Accessibility Changes and Genomic Integration Identify Genetic Regulatory Mechanisms.” Since graduating, Kevin has continued to work at UNC. 
Ali Abdolrahmani graduated from the University of Maryland Baltimore County with a PhD in human-centered computing. His dissertation is titled “Investigating Ways to Support the Use of Voice Assistants (VAs) Among Individuals Who Are Blind.”
Wing Lam graduated with a PhD in CS from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign with a dissertation titled "Detecting, Characterizing, and Taming Flaky Tests." Wing Lam will be joining George Mason University as an assistant professor in the computer science department in the spring of 2022. He works on several topics in software engineering, with a focus on software testing. Wing's research improves software dependability by characterizing bugs and developing novel techniques to detect and tame bugs. 

David Hayden graduated in May from MIT with a PhD in CS. His dissertation is titled “Uncertainty Quantification and Structure Discovery for Scalable Behavior Science.” David works on interpretable machine learning and computer vision with special focus on behavior analysis, multi-object tracking, Bayesian nonparametrics applied to time-series, distributions on manifolds, and using uncertainty to guide decision making, analysis, and experiment design.

DO-IT Director Wins the Diversity in Technology Leadership Award

Elizabeth Woolner, DO-IT Staff

Each year, the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE) and the NAPE Education Foundation honor individuals in education and work who embody a commitment to equity, inclusion, and diversity.

This year, DO-IT Director Sheryl Burgstahler won the Diversity in Technology Leadership Award. This award recognizes a role model to the national community of excellence in technology and/or STEM. Sheryl was chosen for her embodiment of the following values:

  • Promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion in her organization
  • Collaborates, mentors, and advocates to inspire and develop future leaders from underrepresented groups
  • Is innovative, creative, and agile in moving her community forward to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in technology and STEM
  • Uses research- and evidence-based mechanisms to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Demonstrates measurable outcomes showing increased participation of underrepresented groups in technology and/or STEM

The awardees were honored on April 29, 2021 at the end of NAPE’s annual summit. She gave the following words: “I would like to thank NAPE for recognizing the accomplishments of my Accessible Technology Services unit at the University of Washington along with our partners and collaborators. Projects led by our DO-IT Center and the IT Accessibility Team have increased the successful participation of people with disabilities in college and careers, using technology as an empowering tool. The speed at which thousands of on-site courses and services at our postsecondary institutions were moved to online formats in response to the pandemic was impressive, but it also shined a light on the many shortcomings with respect to accessibility. Much work remains to be done in making these offerings fully accessible to and inclusive of people with disabilities. We will continue to collaborate with like-minded individuals and organizations to work toward leveling the playing field in academic opportunities and careers for people with disabilities. Through this award, NAPE highlights the importance of considering people with disabilities in all diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.”

Learn more about the award.

2021 RESPECT Panel on Intersectionality

Richard Ladner, AccessComputing PI
A screenshot of the RESPECT conference webpage.

The Annual Conference on Research in Equity and Sustained Participation in Engineering, Computing, and Technology (RESPECT) was held virtually May 23-27, 2021. The RESPECT venue is for the dissemination of research and practice about equity, inclusion, and justice in computing and computing education. Among the many interesting presentations was a panel organized by AccessComputing titled “An Intersectional Approach to Including Disability in BPC [Broadening Participation in Computing].” The panelists were Cecilia Aragon from the University of Washington, Jerry Robinson from Google, Jeremy Waisome from University of Florida, and Rua Williams from Purdue University. All the panelists have disabilities and at least one other minority identity (woman, Latina, Black, or queer). Some of their disabilities were life-long (autism and cerebral palsy), while others were acquired later in life (mobility limitations and health-related disabilities). The panel began with each panelist introducing themselves, giving a short history of their education and work experience, and describing how their disability and other minority identity impact their lives. 

The lead question posed by the moderator, AccessComputing PI Richard Ladner, was, “How can conversations around BPC approach disability with an intersectional lens?” All the panelists reflected on their life experiences to answer this question. It was striking how different their experiences were, but a common thread was that having a disability added an additional battle in their lives due to societal expectations and structures. The next question was, “What advice do you have for our community about ways to be more welcoming and accessible to people with disabilities?” There were two general responses from the panelists. First, people in the community should learn and become knowledgeable about disability. It is not a simple binary trait, but complicated in many dimensions. Second, people in the community should listen to individuals with disabilities, not make assumptions, and “believe us.” The panel ended with questions from the audience. It was great to hear about the life experiences and perspectives from such accomplished computing professionals who have disabilities.

RESPECT 2021: Toward Justice-Focused Computing Education

Amy J. Ko, AccessComputing Co-PI
A screenshot of Amy Ko's presentation addressing diversity in CS.

There are a lot of computing education (CS) conferences—far more than I’m used to in other academic fields. There’s the (big) SIGCSE Technical Symposium, the (rigorous) International Computing Education Research conference, the (European) Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education (ITiCSE), the (Finnish) Koli Calling, the (originally German) Workshop in Primary and Secondary Computing Education, the Australasian Computing Education Conference, the (Asian) CompEd, the (North American) Computer Science Teachers Association Conference, and I’m sure many others I’ve forgotten. Historically, computing education has been far more regional than most global research communities: This could be due to different amounts (or lack thereof) of funding or the national and cultural ties to public education.

There is, however, one thing that all of these conferences have had in common over time: A broad disregard for issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in CS. I don’t think that’s as true anymore—the SIGCSE venues above have an increasing focus on diversity, and certainly many existing education and learning sciences venues that have long centered diversity are beginning to examine computing—but it’s still the case that diversity is not central. For anyone who studies diversity in CS, or anyone with a marginalized identity in CS, the feeling of attending a SIGCSE event can be one of disregard. It often feels as if the broader community is tacitly saying, “Yes, diversity matters too, but I really want to tell you about this new tool that raises average grades.” Diversity simply feels like an afterthought. And for many marginalized and oppressed people in CS, it is unavoidably and inescapably a central focus.

This is where IEEE RESPECT (The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ Annual Conference on Research in Equity and Sustained Participation in Engineering, Computing, and Technology) comes in. Originally founded by Tiffany Barnes in 2015, the conference was intended to be a venue that explicitly focused on diversity in computing. It began with a slightly more narrow focus on broadening participation in computing, mirroring the many NSF-supported projects in North America that had that same framing. It’s grown over time to draw computing education researchers and practitioners who center diversity, equity, and inclusion in their scholarship and teaching, tending to draw many more education researchers than other venues.

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but when I first heard of RESPECT, I naively thought, “Do we really need another conference?” And in some ways, I still think that’s true: Fragmentation of a research community is rarely helpful, and splintering diversity work into a separate venue only reinforces the idea that other venues don’t have to deal with it. I certainly don’t have the bandwidth to attend SIGCSE, ICER, ITiCSE, and RESPECT, along with other conferences to engage with other communities. On the other hand, there can be great power in focus. After being invited to give the closing keynote this year at RESPECT 2021, I was excited to give diversity my full attention. And as I quickly learned, that focus can be productive.
For more information on this topic, read the full article on my blog.

Webinar on Accessibility and Procurement

A screenshot of the webinar on IT accessibility in procurement.

In the July 2020 edition of AccessComputing News, the article Accessibility and Third-Party Products and Services described three stages in which accessibility should be addressed as part of the process for procuring information technology (IT): Soliciting accessibility information from vendors, validating the accessibility information received, and including accessibility assurances in contracts. All three of these stages typically involve Voluntary Product Accessibility Templates (VPATs). VPATs are a standard form that vendors can use to document the accessibility of their products or services, as measured by accessibility standards such as the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1. 
Anyone who makes IT procurement decisions is assuming risk on behalf of their university or organization. As risk owners, they must take steps to ensure the product or service they're procuring is accessible to all users, including those with disabilities. Therefore, risk owners—and the staff who support them—should have at least a basic understanding of how to read a VPAT. 
On June 30, 2021, Terrill Thompson, manager of the UW's IT Accessibility Team and IT accessibility specialist for AccessComputing, joined Lynn Magill of UW Procurement Services to offer a webinar titled Accessibility in Procurement: Partnering for Success and How to Read a VPAT. A goal of the webinar was to educate risk owners on how to consider accessibility when making IT procurement decisions. The webinar was recorded and is available online via the Accessible Technology Webinar Series website. 

AccessComputing Team Profile: Carl

Carl Haynes, AccessComputing Team Member

I’m a PhD candidate at the University of Michigan School of Information, and I identify as being neurodivergent. The key to my success has been an unyielding focus on scholarship, service, and self-care.

This past semester, I published my first CHI paper entitled “Problem-Solving Efficiency and Cognitive Load for Adaptive Parsons Problems vs. Writing the Equivalent Code.” This research found that, on average, novice programmers put in less mental effort into solving drag-and-drop problems than equivalent write code problems. But after reading a paper by Drs. Lauren R. Milne and Richard E. Ladner about disabled students’ experiences with block-based/drag-and-drop programming environments, I was left wondering how my results would generalize to students with cognitive and/or learning disabilities like myself. Consequently, I applied for and was awarded a $3,000 grant to investigate how students with learning disabilities learn to program using interactive eBooks with adaptive Parsons problems. My background in English, library, and information science, as well as human-computer interaction, have primed me for working with Dr. Barbara J. Ericson, who is passionate about creating free computing education eBooks.

I also mentored two undergraduates (one of whom was accepted to Google's Computer Science research mentorship program), participated in the hiring of our university’s new student accessibility and accommodation services director, was nominated to attend this year’s Human-Computer Interaction Consortium, and hiked the Garden of the Gods.

My greatest accomplishment, however, is right around the corner. I’m currently working on my dissertation proposal and plan to graduate next year. And I’m even more committed to my goal of working at a tier one research university after participating in the Preparing Future Faculty Seminar facilitated by the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching at my university. Seminars like this expose details about the job search to first-generation college students and give disabled students a chance to ask questions.
The pertinent takeaway from the seminar was that students and faculty with and without disabilities can excel in academia with the right support. "I’ve been fortunate to have a partner (Nathan) whom I can talk to about the complexities of being at the intersection of multiple marginalized identities, a mother who has 10+ years’ experience providing specialized services for individuals with brain injuries, autism, and intellectual disabilities, in-laws (Patti and Jim) whose higher education- and disability-related guidance have been invaluable, and friends to laugh with.

Inspiration has also helped guide my path and push me forward. I’m inspired by people like Amy J. Ko, Marcelo Worsley, Michail Giannakos, Maya Israel, Katta Spiel, Richard Ladner, Fred Paas, and Hariharan Subramonyam.

I’m most looking forward to engaging with the communities at the Conference on International Computing Education Research and the International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility. If you’ve never attended them, consider it. I attended them both for the first time last year and found both to be welcoming—special thanks to Lauren Margulieux, Colleen Lewis, and Robin Brewer.

I’ll leave you with three things: If you haven’t seen Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution, go check it out. If you plan on working in academia, join the Association on Higher Education and Disability. And a life lesson in the quote from my friend and former professor Sarah Schulman: “What’s normal is what’s human.”

The Chance to Attend Conferences Across the World Online

Sheryl Burgstahler, AccessComputing PI
A screenshot of Sheryl Burgstahler during an online conference.

Everyone adjusted to the pandemic in many ways in their personal life and careers. For those of us in AccessComputing, we pivoted from on-site to online presentations, meetings, and events. As conferences moved online, I was able to take advantage by engaging in more discussions, delivering a multitude of presentations and poster sessions, and leading many online discussions. Many stakeholder groups at these events were discussing the issues surrounding the conversion of postsecondary on-site courses to online venues. In the past few years, there has also been a growth in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives and discussions nationwide. In response to these conference themes, I tailored talks about the accessible and inclusive design of online learning and the application of a universal design (UD) framework to underpin these practices to a wide variety of stakeholder groups. Focusing on accessibility and inclusion in computing, I presented at RESPECT, Consortium for Computing Sciences in Colleges, ACM SIGCSE, Computer Science Teachers Association, and HighEdWeb conferences. I also presented on these topics within accessible IT at Accessing Higher Ground and CSUN Assistive Technology conferences. 
In relation to teaching and higher education, I reached stakeholders focused on pedagogy and the delivery of online and on-site courses in a keynote address at the NWeLearn conference and concurrent sessions at the Online Learning Consortium Innovate, Lilly, Teaching Innovation, American Association of Colleges and Universities conference on General Education Pedagogy, the Universal Design for Learning, ULDHE, and Higher Education Pedagogy conferences. I also spoke at the Association of American Colleges and Universities conference. DEI-focused practitioners and researchers were engaged in my presentations at the National Summit for Educational Equity; the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) Conference on Diversity, Equity, and Student Success; NW Regional Equity Conference; National Summit for Educational Equity; and Inclusive Educators. I reached researchers and practitioners more specifically focused on disability at the Society for Disability Studies, Multiple Perspectives, Pacific Rim International, CUNY Accessibility, and ADHEAD conferences. Informal science learning professionals were reached at the American Alliance of Museums, Smithsonian Education Association; and University Professional and Continuing Education conferences. 
This year I felt like I was living in the digital version of Dr. Seuss' Oh, The Places You’ll Go. The movement of on-site to online forums gave me an opportunity that I took advantage of—to attend conferences all over the country. One of the highlights was a keynote address I gave at the International Disability Inclusion Symposium hosted by the University of Tokyo titled “DO-IT Framework, Goals, Practices, and Collaborations in Asia.” I hope you too were able to find a silver lining in these challenging times.

Watch AccessCSforAll's Webinars for CS Educators Teaching Students with Disabilities

Brianna Blaser, AccessComputing Staff
A screenshot of an AccessCSforAll webinar on providing CS educators tools to increase CS accessiblity.

AccessCSforAll hosted a series of four webinars called Accessible Computer Science: Teacher to Teacher, funded by the Infosys Foundation USA. In these webinars, computer science (CS) teachers who specialize in teaching blind and visually impaired students, deaf and hard of hearing students, and learning disabled and neurodiverse students shared strategies that other K-12 educators can use to include students with disabilities in their classroom. Recordings of each webinar are available on our AccessCSforAll Infosys webinar page.

Teaching CS to Blind and Visually Impaired Students

In this webinar, Gina Fugate shared lessons learned teaching CS to students who are blind and visually impaired. Gina is an assistive technology teacher at Maryland School for the Blind and has also taught students who are blind and visually impaired in a public school setting. She earned her M.Ed. in special education with an emphasis on visual disabilities. She co-coaches the DOT5UDOGS and 180 Optimum using Quorum Lego Robotics for First Lego League.

Teaching CS to Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students

In this webinar, Elizabeth (Beth) Kimball shared lessons learned teaching computer science to students who are deaf and hearing impaired. Beth is a graduate of multiple universities with a passion for anything new. Currently, Beth teaches computer science at Indiana School for the Deaf in the middle and high school STEM departments.

Teaching CS to Students with Learning Disabilities

In this webinar, Sarah Ciras shared lessons learned teaching computer science to students with learning disabilities. Sarah is a special education teacher at Landmark School in Beverly, MA and has been teaching for 11 years. This year she was named a CSTA Equity Fellow. She has spoken at several conferences about making CS accessible to students with language based learning disabilities.

Teaching CS to Neurodiverse Students

In this webinar, Robert DeFillippo shared lessons learned teaching CS to neurodiverse students. Mr. Robert DeFillippo is a 25-year educator who has worked with varied exceptionalities throughout his career. In 2008 Mr. DeFillippo earned the Annie Sullivan award for excellence in education, along with being named the 2018 national Champion of Computer Science award winner for his work with equity and accessibility to computer science for students with severe cognitive and emotional disabilities.

DO-IT Wins Award in the NSF STEM for All Video Showcase

Scott Bellman, DO-IT Program Manager
Screenshot from Women with Disabilities in Academic Careers

Each year, TERC (originally Technical Education Research Centers) hosts an event called the National Science Foundation (NSF) STEM for All Video Showcase, sharing three-minute videos from federally funded projects that seek to improve science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. During the week-long event, a wide variety of stakeholders (educators, policy makers, industry representatives, and the general public) are encouraged to participate and share in meaningful discussion. According to the STEM for All website, “All participants will be able to view the video presentations, post to the facilitated discussions related to each video, and vote for the videos that are most effective in conveying the creative work being done.” Showcase videos and discussions are archived for future access after the event. Videos submitted in 2021 by DO-IT Center and its collaborators include these videos:

The DO-IT video Women with Disabilities in STEM Academic Careers, led by Brianna Blaser and leaders of the DO-IT AccessADVANCE project, won a prestigious STEM for All Showcase Presenter’s Choice Award! The award is bestowed upon a video for quality of content and its ability to engage the audience in lively discussion. Recipients are selected by the STEM for All community of presenters and co-presenters, representing a group of leading researchers in the field of STEM education. Congratulations to Brianna and the AccessADVANCE team.

AccessComputing Profile: Shiri Azenkot

Shiri Azenkot

Shiri Azenkot, former AccessComputing Team member, is now an associate professor in the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech and the Technion. She is also a faculty member in Information Science at Cornell University. She received her undergraduate degree at Pomona College in California in 2005 and her PhD at the University of Washington (UW) in 2014. Between her graduation from Pomona and entering UW, she worked in industry for four years. Her research area is human-computer interaction (HCI) with a focus on accessibility. While at UW, she won the UW Graduate Medal that recognizes PhD candidates whose academic expertise and social awareness are integrated in a way that demonstrates an exemplary commitment to the University and its larger community. Most recently in 2021, she was named Honorable Mention for the Skip Ellis Early Career Award given by the Computing Research Association that recognizes early-career individuals underrepresented in computing research that best exemplify the pioneering spirit of Skip Ellis, the first African American to earn a PhD in computer science. The award is for individuals who have made significant research contributions in computer science and/or engineering and have also contributed to the profession, especially in outreach to underrepresented groups. 

Shiri has made many research contributions that have had significant impact. She is a leading contributor to the ACM SIGACCESS Conference On Computers and Accessibility (ASSETS) and has won several best paper awards there. Her research spans accessible technologies for smartphones, 3D printing, and augmented and virtual reality (XR). She has a special interest in innovative technology for people who are blind or have low vision. For her work in accessible XR, she won a National Science Foundation CAREER award in 2020. She is one of the founders and leaders of XR Access, an initiative of academics, practitioners from industry, and advocacy groups with a focus on making XR accessible. She has supervised two PhD students who have gone on to careers: Lei Shi who is at Google and Yuhang Zhao who is an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin. She currently supervises five PhD students.

Since joining Cornell Tech, Shiri continues to be involved with AccessComputing by being a partner. She has hosted several AccessComputing Team members as summer research interns. She was a keynote speaker at the OurCS@UW+AccessComputing workshop, a UW event held in 2019 that introduced research to undergraduate women with disabilities. During this workshop, she also led a small group of students in a short research project. She will be recruiting AccessComputing Team members for a new XR Access focused summer research program.

Teach Access Virtual Study Away

Richard Ladner, AccessComputing PI

Participants from the Teach Access Study Away over Zoom

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Teach Access Study Away program was held virtually each Wednesday from March 17-April 21, 2021 for one and a half hours. Eighty-two students participated from nine different universities, including six AccessComputing Institutional Partners: University of Washington, University of Southern California, Rochester Institute of Technology, California State University, Northridge, University of Colorado Boulder, and University of Maryland. The purpose of this program is to bring together students, faculty, advocacy groups, and industry partners to explore the field of accessible technology design and development. The program consisted of presentations and panels aimed at helping students understand disability and accessibility. Companies that participated included Apple, Ernst & Young Global Limited (EY), Facebook, Google, Linkedin, Microsoft, Spotify, Verizon, Verizon Media, and Walmart. Advocacy groups that participated included the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), National Association of the Deaf (NAD), and American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). Topics of presentations and panels included accessibility and design, accessibility and innovation, inclusive marketing, careers in accessibility, accessibility research, and lessons from advocates. During the program, there was plenty of time for students to ask questions. Former AccessComputing Team member Chris Yoon, now at Microsoft, was one of the organizers who planned the program. 

An image of the Teach Access logo.

After the program, teams were formed to participate in Accessathon, an event where the teams worked on designing and building prototypes to solve accessibility problems. The participating teams were recognized on May 20, 2021 for Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). Four teams, totaling 24 students, completed their projects and prepared videos to describe their results. The projects included the design of an indoor navigation app, a survey on mental health and accessibility, and a collaborative note taking app. The winning project was an innovative and more inclusive classroom communication tool that would be more equitable than simply raising hands to be recognized in the classroom. AccessComputing partner representative from the University of Southern California, Kendra Walther, was one of the organizers of Accessathon.

2021 CHI SIG on Access at SIGCHI

Richard Ladner, AccessComputing PI
The CHI 2021 logo, with the slogan "Making Waves, Combining Strengths."

ACM SIGCHI is the Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction. Its premier conference is the Computer-Human-Interaction (CHI) Conference. It also sponsors 20 other conferences. The CHI conference hosted over 3,000 attendees and was held virtually from May 8-13, 2021. Every year, a major feature of the conference is for people to meet in special interest groups (SIGS) to exchange ideas that are of common interest to the participants. A SIG on Access at SIGCHI was co-sponsored by ACM SIGACCESS, AccessSIGCHI, and AccessComputing. SIGACCESS is the Special Interest Group on Accessible Computing and AccessSIGCHI is a group, independent of SIGCHI, that focuses on the accessibility of SIGCHI conferences and publications. 

There were about 60 participants from many different countries. The 75 minute discussion centered on three questions:

  • What are the key barriers to accessing SIGCHI events (virtual and and in-person)?
  • What are the key barriers to publishing in SIGCHI venues?
  • What are the experiences of people with disabilities who are also members of marginalized groups in SIGCHI?

There was a wide ranging discussion that was documented in a 20-page report that is too long to summarize here. One discussion point was about SIGCHI adjunct co-chairs of accessibility, Soraia Prietch and Stacy Branham, who were appointed in 2020. They can currently advocate directly with the elected leadership of SIGCHI about accessibility concerns and solutions. With SIGCHI leadership changing soon because of the current election, it is not clear whether these positions will continue under new leadership. Since conferences and their proceedings are often contracted to outside vendors, there was concern about how to make those vendors accountable for making the conference and publications accessible. It was suggested that conferences could consult with AccessComputing, and in particular, Co-PI Sheryl Burgstahler and her team in UW-IT, who has extensive experience in putting language in contracts that hold vendors accountable for making their products and services accessible.

Accelerating Disability Inclusion in Workplaces through Technology Workshop

Richard Ladner, AccessComputing PI; and Sheryl Burgstahler, AccessComputing Co-PI
The NSF Convergence Accelerator Program logo.

Professor Vinod Namboodiri, the AccessComputing representative of Wichita State University, was one of the organizers of the Accelerating Disability Inclusion in Workplaces through Technology workshop that was sponsored by the Convergence Accelerator Program at the National Science Foundation. The purpose of the invitation-only workshop was to systematically prepare themes for use-inspired research that requires the convergence of different research and practice communities (convergence) that are ready for at least the prototype stage in three years (acceleration). The themes with their rationale would be folding into a proposal to NSF for a new solicitation in the area of accessibility.
Co-PI Sheryl Burgstahler delivered a keynote presentation to kick off the multi-day workshop. In her presentation, Burgstahler described an “inclusive” workplace as one where everyone who meets requirements, with or without accommodations, is encouraged to apply; all employees, with or without accommodations, feel welcome; and employees are fully engaged using accessible IT in inclusive project teams. She expressed concern that: 

  • anyone must request an accommodation simply to apply for a job,
  • anyone has to request an accommodation to read information on a company’s website,
  • any employee cannot fully engage with coworkers using the IT systems used by the company,
  • any worksite is not designed accessibly for future employees with disabilities in mind, and
  • any IT company produces inaccessible products and does not demand that faculty teach about accessibility in their courses.

For more information about the universal design (UD) framework, consult The Center for Universal Design in Education.

Over 90 researchers, practitioners, and advocates worked together for three four-hour sessions in small groups to come up with challenges and potential solutions. Themes that came out of the workshop included these topics:

  • Hiring and workplace accommodations
  • Access to workplaces
  • Policy and economics
  • Design and innovation
  • Training and workforce development
  • K-16 education

Groups prepared compelling arguments about why projects under each theme should be funded. A smaller group will later merge these arguments to make a compelling case for a new NSF solicitation. A final report from the workshop will be posted on the workshop webpage in due course. Congratulations to Vinod and his colleagues for pulling this workshop together.

Salesforce is Disability:IN's Employer of the Year

An image of the Salesforce logo.

AccessComputing congratulates our partner Salesforce on being chosen Employer of the Year by Disability:IN.

According to Disability:IN, "The Employer of the Year recognizes exemplary policies, strategies and initiatives that have resulted in measurable results in the areas of disability inclusiveness in the workplace, marketplace and supply chain."


About AccessComputing

Led by the Department of Computer Science & Engineering and DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) at the University of Washington, AccessComputing is supported by the National Science Foundation (Grant No. CNS-0540615, CNS-0837508, and CNS-1042260). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. For further information, to be placed on the mailing list or to request materials in an alternate format, contact:

University of Washington
Box 354842
Seattle, WA 98195-4842
206-221-4171 (Fax)
206-685-DOIT (3648) (voice/TTY)
888-972-DOIT (3648) (toll free voice/TTY)
509-328-9331 (voice/TTY) Spokane

Dr. Richard Ladner, PI
Sheryl Burgstahler, Co-PI
Amy J. Ko, Co-PI
Jacob O. Wobbrock, Co-PI
Brianna Blaser, Project Manager
Kayla Brown, Program Coordinator