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.