Articles and Resource List on Accessibility and Universal Design
There are myriad resources online that can be used in an engineering classroom to explore topics related to accessibility and disability. This accessibility brief introduces some resources you may like to share with students or colleagues to learn more about accessibility and inform discussions around these topics.
Including People with Disabilities in Design
- ThisAbles on Critical Axis [Critical Axis]
This critique of IKEA’s ThisAbles ad for products designed for people with disabilities discusses the erasure of the person who conceived of the line of products and happens to have a disability.
- Billy Price [YouTube Video, March 29, 2019]
University of Washington alum Billy Price started a shoe company that used universal design to make a shoe that worked for a wider audience based on his experience as a person who is paraplegic.
- Srin Madipalli, Airbnb and the Quest to ‘Belong Anywhere’ [New Mobility, May 1, 2019]
Srin Madipalli, head of accessibility for Airbnb, founded a startup focused on accessible travel based on his own experiences traveling as a wheelchair user.
- Disabled people don’t need so many fancy new gadgets. We just need more ramps [Vox, April 30, 2019]
Flashy technology isn’t needed to solve every accessibility issue. This article looks at some of the problems that arise with these sorts of innovations.
- Why Sign-Language Gloves Don't Help Deaf People [The Atlantic, November 9, 2017]
The many attempts to develop sign language translation gloves speaks to a misunderstanding of the deaf world by the hearing world.
- Inventing, designing, and engineering on the autism spectrum [Stem for All Video Showcase, May 13, 2018]
This NSF-funded project engages autistic students in the engineering design process through creating 3D printed objects.
- Blind Artist and Engineering Students Team Up to Create a Unique Cane [The Wall Street Journal, June 25, 2017]
Carmen Papalia, a blind artist, who disliked using a white cane teamed up with Sara Hendren, a professor of design at Olin College to design a new device.
- The Architects Redefining Aesthetics Building design isn’t just about visual appeal. [The Atlantic, June 27, 2019]
Chris Downey is a blind architect who found that his perception of what constitutes accessible design changed dramatically when he lost his vision.
- John Porter - His innovations could make all kinds of products more accessible to people with disabilities
John Porter, a user experience designer at Microsoft who has a disability, wants to ensure that video games are more accessible from the beginning.
- Q&A: John Quarles, UTSA Department of Computer Science [UTSA Today, February 12, 2018]
John Quarles has multiple sclerosis and has done research that looks at using virtual and augmented reality in rehabilitation.
Design, Social Justice, and Culture
- Empathy and innovation: How Microsoft’s cultural shift is leading to new product development [Microsoft, February 13, 2019]
Swetha Machanavajhala struggled to read lips during video calls. Through her work at Microsoft, they’ve integrated features into their products that help users focus on the faces of people they’re talking with.
- I wrote the book on user-friendly design. What I see today horrifies me [Fast Company, May 8, 2019]
Don Norman, author of The Design of Everyday Things, discusses the need for better design to better serve older consumers.
- Excerpt of Accessible America: A History of Disability and Design [Stanford Social Innovation Review, Jan 22, 2019]
Bess Williamson argues that accessible design is innovative and inclusive.
- Smithsonian Exhibit Puts Focus On Accessible Design [Cooper Hewitt, December 15, 2017]
This exhibit at the Smithsonian’s Cooper Hewitt focused on accessible design. Find blog entries and information about the exhibition online.
- How Design for One Turns Into Design for All [The New York Times, January 24, 2018]
This article focuses on the Smithsonian’s Cooper Hewitt exhibit on accessible design.
- When we design for disability, we all benefit [TED, Sept 2015]
In this TEDx talk, Elise Roy describes how having a disability is one of her strengths as a designer.
- Inclusive Design: 12 Ways to Design for Everyone [Shopify, March 23, 2018]
Inclusive design goes beyond just considering accessibility for people with disabilities to make products better for everyone.
- Opening Doors Around the World for People with Disabilities [Tech Inclusion, February, 1, 2018]
Airbnb’s Srin Madipalli talks about his journey lauching an accessible travel startup to connect travelers with disabilities to accessible vacation rentals.
- Social Model Animation [Youtube, November 7, 2011]
This approachable video discusses the social model of disability.
- The Same, But Different: Breaking Down Accessibility, Universality, and Inclusion in Design [Adobe Blog, April 2, 2018]
Accessibility, inclusive design, and universal design are related but distinct concepts.
- Designing For Accessibility Doesn't Drive Costs; It Drives Opportunity [Forbes, December 20, 2018]
Considering accessibility when you begin designing a product leads to an end result that’s better for a host of reasons.
- Microsoft’s Radical Bet On A New Type Of Design Thinking [Fast Company, February 17, 2016]
This article offers a history of inclusive design efforts and discussion of Microsoft’s current efforts in this space.
Examples of Accessible Design
- Ikea Is Making Furniture That Is Accessible for People with Disabilities [Fast Company, March 12, 2019]
Ikea Israel is working to develop a series of modifications to make Ikea furniture pieces more accessible.
- Seattle's got terrible sidewalks. You can help fix them. [Crosscut, April 26, 2019] and Project Sidewalk helps users map accessibility around Seattle, other cities [UW News, April 18, 2019]
UW's Project Sidewalk users review images of sidewalks via Google Street View to help determine which routes are accessible for people with disabilities.
- LEGO Braille bricks are the best, nicest and, in retrospect, most obvious idea ever [Tech Crunch, April 24, 2019]
LEGO Braille Bricks make uses of LEGO’s “dots” to help teach Braille to children with visual impairments.
- All Can Experience Dinosaur Hall at Museum [WCPO Cincinnati, January 30, 2019]
The Cincinnati Museum Center’s Dinosaur Hall has made steps to become more accessible, involving blind people throughout the process.
- Empathic AI mirrors human emotions to help autistic children [Silicon Angle, May 14, 2019]
Emotionally aware robots may be useful as assistive technology for autistic children.
- UW students rely on input from professor’s son to create prototype for app that eases panic attacks [GeekWire, March 25, 2019]
A class project from the University of Washington Neural Engineering Tech Studio helps people who experience panic attacks.
- How to train your robot (to feed you dinner) [UW News, March 11, 2019]
This robotic system was designed to help people who need assistance feeding themselves.
- Adaptive Video Game Controllers Open Worlds for Gamers With Disabilities [The New York Times, February 20 2019]
For years, the gaming community modified existing controllers or devised new ones for people with disabilities. Microsoft’s new adaptive controller is an out of the box solution for these people.
- Accessibility Apps May Change How You View Your Town [The Atlantic, November 6, 2018]
Apps that crowd source accessibility information can help people with disabilities but they are only as good as the data they are given.
- In the lab with Xbox’s new Adaptive Controller, which may change gaming forever [ARSTechnica, May 16, 2018]
The Xbox Adaptive Controllers lets games utilize oversized buttons, finger switches, blowing tubes, foot pedals, and more to play games.
- Reimagine accessibility [Microsoft]
This video looks at work that Microsoft and their partners are doing to create accessible technology.
- These Gloves Are Being Used To Teach Piano And Rehab Stroke Victims [SuperHuman, May 8, 2018]
Gloves that make use of passive haptic learning can help individuals learn to read Braille or recover from traumatic brain injuries.
- Screen reader plus keyboard helps blind, low-vision users browse modern webpages [UW News, April 18, 2018]
New research looks at ways to use a keyboard as a two-dimensional way for blind and low vision users to navigate tables and more on the web.
- Slide to Unlock [University of Washington]
Martez Mott’s research looks at ways to make touch screens accessible to people with motor impairments.
- HELPING THE BODY HEAL, FEEL AND MOVE AGAIN [University of Washington]
Neural engineering has the potential to develop new technology that benefits a range of people with disabilities.
- Machine-Learning Tech Increases Accessibility for People with Disabilities [ MIT Technology Review, March 23, 2017]
Machine learning can be used to caption videos, generate image descriptions, and clarify language.
- Videogame Accessibility and Gaming with Disabilities [C|net, April 7, 2017]
Today’s sophisticated video games can be made accessible for individuals with a variety of disabilities with a variety of software and hardware.
- Ohio State engineers modify toys for special-needs children [The Lantern, October 31, 2016]
Modifying toys to make use of switches can make them accessible to children with mobility impairments.
- PATENT PENDING [Microsoft]
Learn about a group of women participating in the Microsoft #MakeWhatsNext Patent Program that built a text-to-Braille translator.
Experiences of People with Disabilities
- This is How Blind and Visually Impaired Individuals Use Technology [Buzzfeed News, January 17, 2018]
Blind and visually impaired users talk about technology they use including audio description, Braille displays, and more.
- Ask an Autistic [YouTube]
Amythest Schaber’s YouTube channel answers questions about what it is like to be an autistic.
- The Tommy Edison Experience [Youtube]
Film critic Tommy Edison shares how he navigates daily life as a blind person.
- Making Disability Less Abstract [The Chronicle of Higher Education, October 22, 2017]
Allan B. Goldstein’s class pairs engineering students with adults with disabilities to make short films about what their lives are like.
- The “Quadfather” visits the CSNE [Center for Neurotechnology, August 24, 2017]
Paraplegic Todd Stabelfeldt uses a variety of technology to navigate his daily life.
- Disability & Innovation: The Benefits of Universal Design [YouTube]
Haben Girma, the first deaf blind person to graduate from Harvard Law School, advocates for accessibility and inclusion, arguing that improvements for accessibility can make technology better for a wide audience.
- What’s Disability to Me? [World Health Organization]
These videos from the World Health Organization feature individuals with disabilities talking about their experiences and ways they use technology.
- What I've learned from my learning disabilities [AAAS, October 26, 2017]
Postdoc Collin R. Diedrich faced obstacles along the way in his STEM career as a person with a learning disability.
Making and Makerspaces
- Is the Maker Movement Inclusive of ANYONE?: Three Accessibility Considerations to Invite Blind Makers to the Making World [SpringerLink, February 9, 2019]
This article explores strategies that can lead to a more accessible maker movement.
- Designing Tactile Picture Books: Critical Making in Libraries to Broaden Participation in STEM Education and Careers [Stem for All Video Showcase 2019]
This video explores a project focused on fabrication of accessible, multimodal media for children with visual impairments.
- Driven by students, HuskyADAPT is teaching the UW community how to modify toys for kids with disabilities [UW College of Engineering, May 14, 2018]
Many kids with disabilities cannot use toys as they were originally designed. Toy adaptation can make these toys accessible.
- UW Today: How Makerspaces Can be Accessible to People with Disabilities [UW News, August 5, 2015]
An accessibility review of a makerspace can help to make them more accessible to people with disabilities.
Accessibility Webinars and Tutorials
- Microsoft Accessibility Learning Webinar Series
This webinar series focuses on accessibility features from Microsoft.
- MOOCs for Accessibility Partnership
This online course focuses on accessible design in information and communications technology.
Teaching Accessibility & Simulation
- Teaching Accessibility to Broaden Participation [Stem for All Video Showcase 2019]
Teaching about accessibility can lead to engineers and tech professionals who are knowledgeable about accessibility and can design accessible products.
- Disability-related simulations: If, when, and how to use them in professional development [Review of Disability Studies, 2014]
This article looks at both positive and negative aspects of using disability simulations to teach about the experiences of people with disabilities.
- Simulation exercises in disability awareness training: A critique [Disability, 2007]
This paper critiques the use of simulation exercises and advocates for disability equality training designed by people with disabilities.
- Disability Simulations: What Does the Research Say? [Braille Monitor, June, 2017]
The author of this article discusses research she’s published on the pitfalls of disability simulations.
- IE Capstone projects to benefit adults with disabilities [Stem for All Video Showcase, 2018]
In this industrial engineering capstone course, students designed technology for people with disabilities.
- Hearing Loss Simulator: Understanding mild and moderate hearing loss [Hearing Like Me, July 17, 2013]
Listen to what a variety of sounds might sound like with various types of hearing loss.
- This Is What It Sounds Like To Be Deaf [A Plus, December 17, 2015]
A deaf individual shares her experiences trying to read lips.
- How to Do an Accessibility Review [Web Fundamentals]
This resource offers a protocol for conducting an accessibility review of your website.
- Disability Sensitivity Training Video [Youtube, October 2, 2014]
This humorous video shares some advice around disability etiquette.
- What have you learned from these materials about the experiences of people with disabilities? Designing technology for people with disabilities?
- How do you think knowledge related to disability or accessibility will be useful for you in your career?
- Have you been exposed to these topics in other courses or elsewhere?