Accessibility at CHI (AccessComputing News - January 2014)

Jonathan Lazar, AccessComputing partner

ACM’s Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction (SIGCHI) is the world’s largest organization dedicated to the study of how humans interact with interactive technologies. Since 2011, the SIGCHI Executive Committee has been discussing ways to become more inclusive of researchers and practitioners with disabilities. Two complementary forces have driven this initiative: members of the SIGCHI Executive Committee recognized that the SIGCHI community could be more inclusive of practitioners and researchers with disabilities and that improvements were possible, and a number of SIGCHI community members with disabilities began documenting and actively sharing areas where improvements could be made.

Some first steps have been made to address accessibility issues. In consultation with AccessComputing and with ACM SIGACCESS, two general categories of accessibility consideration emerged as key, but separate, issues. The first is digital accessibility (relating to websites and digital resources). The second is physical accessibility (relating to conference locations, hotels, and giving presentations).

Preliminary steps have been taken to improve accessibility of both digital accessibility and physical accessibility for all SIGCHI-related conferences and to create channels of communication between SIGCHI members and non-SIGCHI interested parties (e.g., conference attendees, researchers and practitioners in related fields).

Three concrete steps have been taken to facilitate communication, raise awareness of issues and increase informed representation and advocacy of inclusive practices: (1) before SIGCHI’s flagship conference in 2013, the ACM SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, better known as “CHI”, a new email alias was created, focused specifically on reporting problems related to accessibility at the conference ( This email list was announced online through our email distribution lists and introduced at the Town Hall meeting at the conference itself; (2) questions related to accessibility experience at the CHI 2013 conference were added to the post-conference survey; and (3) the CHI 2014 conference chairs have created two new positions on the conference committee to represent the two key accessibility areas identified: digital accessibility chair and physical accessibility chair.

In addition to communication and representation, action has been taken. With regard to digital access, the digital accessibility chair has focused on the accessibility of the CHI 2014 web site, the CHI 2014 mobile app, and the formatting of digital library submissions (CHI papers). AccessComputing staff has been centrally involved in these efforts.

With regard to physical access, CHI 2014 online submission forms have been modified to explicitly request that authors of accepted papers and notes indicate whether presenters attending the conference will need any type of disability related accommodations. Further, in conducting site selection, SIGACCESS-developed checklists for assessing conference and hotel facilities were adopted by the SIGCHI Conference Management Committee.

While improving the inclusiveness of SIGCHI is a long-term goal, AccessComputing has worked with SIGCHI to make progress towards that goal.