Congrats to CREATE’s Graduating Ph.D. Students 2024!

May 30, 2024

Four of CREATE’s influential and productive doctoral students are graduating this spring. Please join us in congratulating Avery Mack, Emma McDonnell, Venkatesh Potluri, and Ather Sharif and wishing them well.

Avery Mack, a white, femme-presenting person with curly light brown hair shaved close on one side wearing a green blazer and grey top

Avery Mack will receive their Ph.D. from the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering. Advised by CREATE Director Jennifer Mankoff, their research focuses on representation of people with disabilities in digital technologies like avatars and generative AI tools. They recently have investigated how technology can support people with fluctuating access needs, like neurodiverse people and people with chronic or mental health conditions.

Mack has been an invaluable resource at CREATE, co-leading graduate seminars, presenting workshops on accessibility, and contributing to CREATE’s accessibility research. “CREATE has been a great place to meet other accessibility researchers and get in contact with disabled people in our community,” says Mack. “As someone who tries to align my researchers with community needs and desires, this connection to the Seattle disability community is invaluable.”

Mack, whose thesis is titled, Dissertation Title: Understanding, Designing, and Building Adaptable Technology for Fluctuating Accessibility Needs in Group Settings, is on the job market, interested in a research scientist position in industry.

Emma McDonnell, a white woman in her 20s with short red hair, freckles, and a warm smile. In the background: a lush landscape and the Colosseum.

Earning her Ph.D. from Human Centered Design and Engineering, Emma McDonnell is advised by CREATE associate director Leah Findlater. McDonnell’s research blends computer science, design, and disability studies to explore ways that technology can be designed to align with disability politics and social worlds.

Her dissertation research explores how communication technology, specifically captioning, could be redesigned to encourage mixed ability groups to take a collective approach to accessibility. Along with CREATE associate directors Leah Findlater and  Jon Froehlich, McDonnell studied captioning practices on TikTok and offered steps toward a standard for user-generated captioning. With fellow Ph.D. student, McDonnell presented a workshop on accessible presentations for CREATE’s GAAD Day 2024, contextualizing the importance of accessibility within the longer history of disability discrimination and activism.

Looking ahead

McDonnell is interested in postdoctoral opportunities to continue exploring new possibilities for technology design anchored in critical disability perspectives. 

Venkatesh Potluri leans toward the camera smiling with eyes cast downward

Advised by CREATE Director Jennifer Mankoff in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering, Venkatesh Potluri’s research examines accessibility barriers experienced by blind or visually impaired (BVI) developers participating in professional programming domains such as user interface design, data science, and physical computing. His work contributes real-world systems to improve developer tools and new interaction techniques to address these access barriers. His thesis is titled, A Paradigm Shift in Nonvisual Programming.

While at the UW, Potluri has been selected as an Apple Scholar and a Google Lime Scholar, and contributed to the Accessibility Guide for Data Science and STEM Classes. He presented a paper on a large-scale analysis of the accessibility of Jupyter notebooks, a new tool that enables blind and visually impaired people to create their own data visualizations to explore streaming data.

Asked about his experience with CREATE, Potluri responded, "Since CREATE's founding, I've been thrilled by its mission to take a holistic approach to accessibility with disabled experts and stakeholders—from education to research to translation. I'm grateful to have been part of this beacon of high-quality research informed by a deep understanding of disability. I aspire to carry the torch forward and help make the world accessible!"

Future plans

Potluri will join the University of Michigan as an assistant professor in the Information School in Fall 2024.

 

Headshot of Ather Sharif outside on a sunny balcony with blue sky behind himGraduating with a Ph.D. from the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering, Ather Sharif is co-advised by CREATE faculty Katharina Reinecke and CREATE associate director Jacob O. Wobbrock. Sharif’s research on Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) focuses on making online data visualizations accessible to screen-reader users. He pioneered the first-of-its-kind system, VoxLens, that utilizes voice assistants for screen-reader users to extract information from online data visualizations. He also created UnlockedMaps, an open-data map that assists users with mobility disabilities to make informed decisions regarding their commute.

Sharif has garnered many awards while at the UW, including:

Sharif credits CREATE leaders, who include his advisors as well as Richard Ladner, Jennifer Mankoff, and Anat Caspi, to name a few, “who are not only prominent allies for disabled people but are always willing to advise and guide students to be the best researchers they can be.”

“I cannot begin to express how incredible it is to have CREATE as part of our ecosystem,” says Ather. “It advances the state of accessible technologies for people with disabilities through cutting-edge research. Personally, as someone with a disability, it means the world to me. As a researcher, CREATE has funded almost all of my research work at UW.”

After graduation, Sharif will be traveling on a 2024 UW Bonderman Fellowship. He plans to visit Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Costa Rica, Japan, Vietnam, South Korea, and Thailand to learn about disability rights history and distinct physical infrastructure for wheelchair users and enhance his perspectives, challenge his viewpoints, and identify real-life barriers disabled people face. 

With too many accomplishments amongst them to list here, these almost-minted Ph.D.s collaborated on projects that have contributed to CREATE’s growth and success. In addition to mentoring undergraduate students, publishing and presenting papers, and working in labs and with researchers, here are a few of the ways Sharif, Potluri, McDonnell and Mack have worked together:

  • Avery Mack and Venkatesh Potluri contributed to the Accessibility Guide for Data Science and STEM Classes, available via the CREATE website, A11y in Action resource link. They, with the other lead contributors, received the 2024 UW Digital Accessibility Team Award as part of UW Accessible Technology’s Global Accessibility Awareness Day celebration. 
  • Potluri and Mack also co-led 5 CREATE Accessibility Seminars to discuss relevant reading and share accessibility research.
  • Mack and Ather Sharif collaborated with Lucille Njoo to dispel common myths about students with disabilities in an article in the Winter 2024 Allen School DEIA newsletter.
  • McDonnell and Mack presented an accessible presentations workshop as part of UW’s 2024 Global Accessibility Awareness Day celebration.

Winter 2023 CREATE Research Showcase

December 12, 2023

Students from CSE 493 and additional CREATE researchers shared their work at the December 2023 CREATE Research Showcase. The event was well attended by CREATE students, faculty, and community partners. Projects included, for example: an analysis of the accessibility of transit stations and a tool to aid navigation within transit stations; an app to help colorblind people of color pick makeup; and consider the accessibility of generative AI while also considering ableist implications of limited training data.

CSE 493 student projects

In it’s first offering Autumn quarter 2023, CSE’s undergraduate Accessibility class has been focusing on the importance of centering first-person accounts in disability-focused technology work. Students worked this quarter on assignments ranging from accessibility assessments of county voting systems to disability justice analysis to open-ended final projects.

Alti Discord Bot »

Keejay Kim, Ben Kosa, Lucas Lee, Ashley Mochizuki

Alti is a Discord bot that automatically generates alt text for any image that gets uploaded onto Discord. Once you add Alti to your Discord server, Alti will automatically generate alt text for the image using artificial intelligence (AI).

Enhancing Self-Checkout Accessibility at QFC »

Abosh Upadhyaya, Ananya Ganapathi, Suhani Arora

Makes self-checkout more accessible to visually impaired individuals

Complexion Cupid: Color Matching Foundation Program »

Ruth Aramde, Nancy Jimenez-Garcia, Catalina Martinez, Nora Medina

Allows individuals with color blindness to upload an image of their skin, and provides a makeup foundation match. Additionally, individuals can upload existing swatches and will be provided with filtered photos that better show the matching accuracy.

Twitter Content Warnings »

Stefan D’Souza, Aditya Nair

A chrome extension meant to be used in conjunction with twitter.com in order to help people with PTSD

Lettuce Eat! A Map App for Accessibly Dietary Restrictions »

Arianna Montoya, Anusha Gani, Claris Winston, Joo Kim

Parses menus on restaurants’ websites to provide information on restaurants’ dietary restrictions to support individuals with specific dietary requirements, such as vegan vegetarian, and those with Celiac disease.

Form-igate »

Sam Assefa

A chrome extension that allows users with motor impairments to interact with google forms using voice commands, enhancing accessibility.

Lite Lingo: Plain Text Translator »

Ryan Le, Michelle Vu, Chairnet Muche, Angelo Dauz

A plain text translator to help individuals with learning disabilities

Matplotalt: Alt text for matplotlib figures »

Kai Nailund

[No abstract]

PadMap: Accessible Map for Menstrual Products »

Kirsten Graham, Maitri Dedhia, Sandy Cheng, Aaminah Alam

Our goal is to ensure that anywhere on campus, people can search up the closest free menstrual products to them and get there in an accessible way.

SCRIBE: Crowdsourcing Scientific Alt Text »

Sanjana Chintalapati, Sanjana Sridhar, Zage Strassberg-Phillips

A prototype plugin for arXiv that adds alt text to requested papers via crowdwork.

PalPalette »

Pu Thavikulwat, Masaru Chida, Srushti Adesara, Angela Lee

A web app that helps combat loneliness and isolation for young adults with disabilities

SpeechIT »

Pranati Dani, Manasa Lingireddy, Aryan Mahindra

A presentation speech checker to ensure a user’s verbal speech during presentation is accessible and understandable for everyone.

Enhancing Accessibility in SVG Design: A Fabric.js Solution »

Julia Tawfik, Kenneth Ton, Balbir Singh, Aaron Brown

A Laser Cutter Generator’ interface which displays a form to select shapes and set dimensions for SVG creation.

CREATE student and faculty projects

Designing and Implementing Social Stories in Technology: Enhancing Collaboration for Parents and Children with Neurodiverse Needs

Elizabeth Castillo, Annuska Zolyomi, Ting Zhou

Our research project, conducted through interviews in Panama, focuses on the user-centered design of technology to enhance autism social stories for children with neurodiverse needs. We aim to improve collaboration between parents, therapists, and children by creating a platform for creating, sharing, and tracking the usage of social stories. While our initial research was conducted in Panama, we are eager to collaborate with individuals from Japan and other parts of the world where we have connections, to further advance our work in supporting neurodiversity.

An Autoethnographic Case Study of Generative Artificial Intelligence’s Utility for Accessibility

Kate S Glazko, Momona Yamagami, Aashaka Desai, Kelly Avery Mack, Venkatesh Potluri, Xuhai Xu, Jennifer Mankoff

With the recent rapid rise in Generative Artificial Intelligence (GAI) tools, it is imperative that we understand their impact on people with disabilities, both positive and negative. However, although we know that AI in general poses both risks and opportunities for people with disabilities, little is known specifically about GAI in particular. To address this, we conducted a three-month autoethnography of our use of GAI to meet personal and professional needs as a team of researchers with and without disabilities. Our findings demonstrate a wide variety of potential accessibility-related uses for GAI while also highlighting concerns around verifiability, training data, ableism, and false promises.

Machine Learning for Quantifying Rehabilitation Responses in Children with Cerebral Palsy

Charlotte D. Caskey, Siddhi R. Shrivastav, Alyssa M. Spomer, Kristie F. Bjornson, Desiree Roge, Chet T. Moritz, Katherine M. Steele

Increases in step length and decreases in step width are often a rehabilitation goal for children with cerebral palsy (CP) participating in long-term treadmill training. But it can be challenging to quantify the non-linear, highly variable, and interactive response to treadmill training when parameters such as treadmill speed increase over time. Here we use a machine learning method, Bayesian Additive Regression Trees, to show that there is a direct effect of short-burst interval locomotor treadmill training on increasing step length and modulating step width for four children with CP, even after controlling for cofounding parameters of speed, treadmill incline, and time within session.

Spinal Stimulation Improves Spasticity and Motor Control in Children with Cerebral Palsy

Victoria M. Landrum, Charlotte D. Caskey, Siddhi R. Shrivastav, Kristie F. Bjornson, Desiree Roge, Chet T. Moritz, Katherine M. Steele

Cerebral palsy (CP) is caused by a brain injury around the time of birth that leads to less refined motor control and causes spasticity, a velocity dependent stretch reflex that can make it harder to bend and move joints, and thus impairs walking function. Many surgical interventions that target spasticity often lead to negative impacts on walking function and motor control, but transcutaneous spinal cord stimulation (tSCS), a novel, non-invasive intervention, may amplify the neurological response to traditional rehabilitation methods. Results from a 4-subject pilot study indicate that long-term usage of tSCS with treadmill training led to improvements in spasticity and motor control, indicating better walking function.

Adaptive Switch Kit

Kate Bokowy, Mia Hoffman, Heather A. Feldner, Katherine M. Steele

We are developing a switch kit for clinicians and parents to build customizable switches for children with disabilities. These switches are used to help children play with computer games and adapted toys as an early intervention therapy.

Developing a Sidewalk Improvement Cost Function

Alex Kirchmeier, Cole Anderson, Anat Caspi

In this ongoing project, I am developing a Python script that uses a sidewalk issues dataset to determine the cost of improving Seattle’s sidewalks. My intention is to create a customizable function that will help users predict the costs associated with making sidewalks more accessible.

Exploring the Benefits of a Dynamic Harness System Using Partial Body Weight Support on Gross Motor Development for Infants with Down Syndrome

Reham Abuatiq, PT, MSc1; Mia Hoffman, ME, BSc2; Alyssa Fiss, PT, PhD3; Julia Looper, PT, PhD4; & Heather Feldner, PT, PhD, PCS1,5,6

We explored the benefits of a Dynamic Harness System Using Partial Body Weight Support (PBWS) within an enriched play environment on Gross Motor Development for Infants with Down Syndrome using randomized cross over study design. We found that the effectiveness of the PBWS harness system on gross motor development was clearly evident. The overall intervention positively affected activity levels, however, the direct impact of the harness remains unclear.

StreetComplete for Better Pedestrian Mapping

Sabrina Fang, Kohei Matsushima

StreetComplete is a gamified, structured, and user-friendly mobile application for users to improve OpenStreetMap data by completing pilot quests. OpenStreetMap is an open-source, editable world map created and maintained by a community of volunteers. The goal of this research project is to design pilot quests in StreetComplete to accurately collect information about “accessibility features,” such as sidewalk width and the quality of lighting, to improve accessibility for pedestrian mapping.

Transit Stations Are So Confusing!

Jackie Chen, Milena Johnson, Haochen Miao, and Raina Scherer

We are collecting data on the wayfinding nodes in four different Sound Transit light rail stations, and interpreting them through the GTFS-pathways schema. In the future, we plan on visualizing this information through AccessMaps such that it can be referenced by all users.

Optimizing Seattle Curbside Disability Parking Spots

Wendy Bu, Cole Anderson, Anat Caspi

The project is born out of a commitment to enhance the quality of life for individuals with disabilities in the city of Seattle. The primary objective is to systematically analyze and improve the allocation and management of curbside parking spaces designated for disabled individuals. By improving accessibility for individuals with disabilities, the project contributes to fostering a more equitable and welcoming urban environment.

Developing Accessible Tele-Operation Interfaces for Assistive Robots with Occupational Therapists

Vinitha Ranganeni, Maya Cakmak

The research is motivated by the potential of using tele-operation interfaces with assistive robots, such as the Stretch RE2, to enhance the independence of individuals with motor limitations in completing activities of daily living (ADLs). We explored the impact of customization of tele-operation interfaces and a deployed the Stretch RE2 in a home for several weeks facilitated by an occupational therapist and enabled a user with quadriplegia to perform daily activities more independently. Ultimately, this work aims to empower users and occupational therapists in optimizing assistive robots for individual needs.

HuskyADAPT: Accessible Design and Play Technology

HuskyADAPT Student Organization

HuskyADAPT is a multidisciplinary community at the University of Washington that supports the development of accessible design and play technology. Our community aims to initiate conversations regarding accessibility and ignite change through engineering design. It is our hope that we can help train the next generation of inclusively minded engineers, clinicians, and educators to help make the world a more equitable place.

A11yBoard for Google Slides: Developing and Deploying a Real-World Solution for Accessible Slide Reading and Authoring for Blind Users

Zhuohao (Jerry) Zhang, Gene S-H Kim, Jacob O. Wobbrock

Presentation software is largely inaccessible to blind users due to the limitations of screen readers with 2-D artboards. This study introduces an advanced version of A11yBoard, initially developed by Zhang & Wobbrock (CHI2023), which now integrates with Google Slides and addresses real-world challenges. The enhanced A11yBoard, developed through participatory design including a blind co-author, demonstrates through case studies that blind users can independently read and create slides, leading to design guidelines for accessible digital content creation tools.

“He could go wherever he wanted”: Driving Proficiency, Developmental Change, and Caregiver Perceptions following Powered Mobility Training for Children 1-3 Years with Disabilities

Heather A. Feldner, PT, MPT, PhD; Anna Fragomeni, PT; Mia Hoffman, MS; Kim Ingraham, PhD; Liesbeth Gijbels, PhC; Kiana Keithley, SPT; Patricia K. Kuhl, PhD; Audrey Lynn, SPT; Andrew Meltzoff, PhD; Nicole Zaino, PhD; Katherine M. Steele, PhD

The objective of this study was to investigate how a powered mobility intervention for young children (ages 1-3years) with disabilities impacted: 1) Driving proficiency over time; 2) Global developmental outcomes; 3) Learning tool use (i.e., joystick activation); and 4) Caregiver perceptions about powered mobility devices and their child’s capabilities.

Access to Frequent Transit in Seattle

Darsh Iyer, Sanat Misra, Angie Niu, Dr. Anat Caspi, Cole Anderson

The research project in Seattle focuses on analyzing access to public transit, particularly frequent transit stops, by considering factors like median household income. We scripted in QGIS, analyzed walksheds, and examined demographic data surrounding Seattle’s frequent transit stops to understand the equity of transit access in different neighborhoods. Our goal was to visualize and analyze the data to gain insights into the relationship between transit access, median household income, and other demographic factors in Seattle.

Health Service Accessibility

Seanna Qin, Keona Tang, Anat Caspi, Cole Anderson

Our research aims to discover any correlation between median household income and driving duration from census tracts to the nearest urgent care location in the Bellevue and Seattle region

Conveying Uncertainty in Data Visualizations to Screen-Reader Users Through Non-Visual Means

Ather Sharif, Ruican Zhong, and Yadi Wang

Incorporating uncertainty in data visualizations is critical for users to interpret and reliably draw informed conclusions from the underlying data. However, visualization creators conventionally convey the information regarding uncertainty in data visualizations using visual techniques (e.g., error bars), which disenfranchises screen-reader users, who may be blind or have low vision. In this preliminary exploration, we investigated ways to convey uncertainty in data visualizations to screen-reader users.

Off to the Park: A Geospatial Investigation of Adapted Ride-on Car Usage

November 7, 2023

Adapted ride-on cars (ROC) are an affordable, power mobility training tool for young children with disabilities. But weather and adequate drive space create barriers to families’ adoption of their ROC. 

CREATE Ph.D. student Mia E. Hoffman is the lead author on a paper that investigates the relationship between the built environment and ROC usage.

Mia Hoffman smiling into the sun. She has long, blonde hair. Behind her is part of the UW campus with trees and brick buildings.

With her co-advisors Kat Steele and Heather A. Feldner, Jon E. Froehlich (all three CREATE associate directors), and Kyle N. Winfree as co-authors, Hoffman found that play sessions took place more often within the participants’ homes. But when the ROC was used outside, children engaged in longer play sessions, actively drove for a larger portion of the session, and covered greater distances.

Accessibility scores for the sidewalks near a participant’s home on the left and the drive path of the participant on the right. Participant generally avoided streets that were not accessible.

Most notably, they found that children drove more in pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods and when in proximity to accessible paths, demonstrating that providing an accessible place for a child to move, play, and explore is critical in helping a child and family adopt the mobility device into their daily life.

CREATE Open Source Projects Awarded at Web4All

July 6, 2023

CREATE researchers shone this spring at the 2023 Web4All 2023 conference that, in part, seeks to “make the internet more accessible to the more than one billion people who struggle to interact with digital content each day due to neurodivergence, disability or other impairments.” Two CREATE-funded open source projects won accolades.

Best Technical Paper award:
Understanding and Improving Drilled-Down Information Extraction from Online Data Visualizations for Screen-Reader Users

Authors: Ather Sharif, Andrew Mingwei Zhang, CREATE faculty member Katharina Reinecke, and CREATE Associate Director Jacob O. Wobbrock

Built on prior research to develop taxonomies of information sought by screen-reader users to interact with online data visualizations, the team’s research used these taxonomies to extend the functionality of VoxLens—an open-source multi-modal system that improves the accessibility of data visualizations—by supporting drilled-down information extraction. They assessed the performance of their VoxLens enhancements through task-based user studies with 10 screen-reader and 10 non-screen-reader users. Their enhancements “closed the gap” between the two groups by enabling screen-reader users to extract information with approximately the same accuracy as non-screen-reader users, reducing interaction time by 22% in the process.

Accessibility Challenge Delegates’ Award:
UnlockedMaps: A Web-Based Map for Visualizing the Real-Time Accessibility of Urban Rail Transit Stations

Authors: Ather Sharif, Aneesha Ramesh, Qianqian Yu, Trung-Anh H. Nguyen, and Xuhai Xu

Ather Sharif’s work on another project, UnlockedMaps, was honored with the Accessibility Challenge Delegates’ Award. The paper details a web-based map that allows users to see in real time how accessible rail transit stations are in six North American cities, including Seattle, Toronto, New York and the Bay Area. UnlockedMaps shows whether stations are accessible and if they are currently experiencing elevator outages. Their work includes a public website that enables users to make informed decisions regarding their commute and an open source API that can be used by developers, disability advocates, and policy makers for a variety of purposes, including shedding light on the frequency of elevator outages and their repair times to identify the disparities between neighborhoods in a given city.

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Accessible Technology Research Showcase – Spring 2023

June 30, 2023

Poster session in progress, with 9 or so posters on easels in view and student presenters talking to attendees.

In June 2023, CREATE and HuskyADAPT co-hosted a showcase — and celebration — of outstanding UW research on accessible technology. The showcase featured poster presentations, live demonstrations by our faculty, students, and researchers and was altogether vibrant and exciting. Over 100 attendees viewed 25 projects, presentations, and posters.

Congratulations and appreciation to CREATE Engagement and Partnerships Manager Kathleen Quin Voss and HuskyAdapt Student Executive Chair Mia Hoffman for putting on an amazing research showcase!

View the Projects


Spring 2023 Accessible Technology Research Showcase

May 15, 2023

Faculty and students will present research projects at the 2023 Spring Accessible Technology Research Showcase, hosted by CREATE and HuskyADAPT.

Accessible card games: Switch scanning-enabled card holder and dispenser

Project lead: Katrina Ma

While playing card games, individuals with motor disabilities or limited hand and finger use experience a lack of confidentiality, frustration having to depend on a caregiver, and difficulty connecting with other players. Our team aims to create a simple, universal, user-friendly, and affordable device that allows individuals with motor disabilities to independently hold and play cards.

Our idea is to incorporate switch-scanning technology in a device that can hold up to twelve cards and allow the user to dispense a chosen card to other players at the click of a switch. The device has a universal jack to accommodate users' own switches.

Accessisteer

Project lead: Michelle Jin

In order to provide a comfortable bike-riding experience to a child with hemiplegia, our mission is to create seat, handlebar, and stability modifications to a commercially available bicycle. This allows for cycling without the need for external assistance.

Adapted Ride-on Car+

Project lead: Mia Hoffman

Early self-initiated mobility is fundamental to a young child’s development. Adapted ride-on cars (ROCs) are an affordable alternative mobility option for young children with disabilities. We will be investigating the impact that control types has on a child’s directional control and engagement during play using ROCs that are joystick-controlled and manually steered.

Current ROCs depend on manual steering, which results in steering being difficult for a young child, especially with limited motor function. Modifications for ROCs that allow for joystick control are now becoming available, allowing the child to use a joystick for steering. We will be investigating the impact that control types has on a child’s directional control and engagement during play using ROCs that are joystick-controlled and manually steered. To quantify the child’s device interaction, we have developed a custom data logger, the ROC+, using an Ardunio Nano 33 IoT. The data logger measures switch activation for the traditional ROC, steering wheel rotation or joystick position, wheel rotation, acceleration, and angular velocity. We can also measure when an adult has taken control of the device using a remote control. The ROC+ will be used in a forthcoming study to quantify a child’s driving ability and the relationship between a parent and a child while a child is learning to use a powered mobility device.

Blocks4All: A screen reader and switch accessible block-based programming environment

Project lead: Yitong Shan

Blocks4All is a block-based programming environment for all children including those with disabilities. It is accessible with VoiceOver, Switch Control, and Voice Control. Children can learn beginning programming concepts by placing blocks on the app to control the Dash robot.

Chronically Under-Addressed: Considerations for HCI Accessibility Practice with Chronically Ill People

Project lead: Kelly Mack and Emma McDonnell

Accessible design and technology could support the large and growing group of people with chronic illnesses. However, human computer interactions (HCI) has largely approached people with chronic illnesses through a lens of medical tracking or treatment rather than accessibility. We describe and demonstrate a framework for designing technology in ways that center the chronically ill experience.

First, we identify guiding tenets: 1) treating chronically ill people not as patients but as people with access needs and expertise, 2) recognizing the way that variable ability shapes accessibility considerations, and 3) adopting a theoretical understanding of chronic illness that attends to the body. We then illustrate these tenets through autoethnographic case studies of two chronically ill authors using technology. Finally, we discuss implications for technology design, including designing for consequence-based accessibility, considering how to engage care communities, and how HCI research can engage chronically ill participants in research.

Cultivating inclusive play and maker mindset among neurodiverse children in a preschool classroom

Project lead: Maitraye Das

Young neurodivergent children need equitable opportunities to co-engage in high quality learning activities alongside neurotypical peers from early childhood. While there has been critical movement toward increasing participation of neurodivergent children in classrooms, much of this work involve school-age kids (6 years or over), leaving open questions around how neurodivergent preschoolers of age 3-5 years might engage in collaborative play with and around technologies.

We aim to understand whether and how programmable toy robots (e.g., KIBO) can foster inclusive play and maker mindset among neurodiverse children in preschool classrooms.

We partnered with the Experimental Education Unit (EEU) at the UW Haring Center. We conducted our research in two preschool classrooms, each including 16 children between the ages of 3-5. Six to eight children in each classroom have neurodevelopmental conditions including autism, developmental delays, and speech difficulties. Our research activities center around supporting children in making and interacting with the toy robot called KIBO. Preliminary findings show that through careful and accessible adaptation of activities, KIBO could enhance understanding of cause of effect, trial and error, enthusiasm for making and imagination, and sense of collaboration (and at times competition and negotiation) among neurodiverse groups of children.

Design Principles for Robot-Assisted Feeding in Social Contexts

Project lead: Amal Nanavati

Social dining is a meaningful and culturally significant experience. For 1.8 million Americans with motor impairments who cannot eat without assistance, challenges restrict them from enjoying this social ritual. In this work, we identify the needs of participants with motor impairments during social dining and how robot-assisted feeding can address them. 

Following a community-based participatory research method, we worked with a community researcher with motor impairments throughout this study. We contribute (a) insights into how a robot can help overcome challenges in social dining and (b) design principles for creating robot-assisted feeding systems to facilitate meaningful social dining.

Easier or Harder, Depending on Who the Hearing Person Is”: Codesigning Videoconferencing Tools for Small Groups with Mixed Hearing Status

Project lead: Emma McDonnell

With improvements in automated speech recognition and increased use of videoconferencing, real-time captioning has changed significantly. This shift toward broadly available but less accurate captioning invites exploration of the role hearing conversation partners play in shaping the accessibility of a conversation to d/Deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) captioning users.

While recent work has explored DHH individuals’ videoconferencing experiences with captioning, we focus on established groups’ current practices and priorities for future tools to support more accessible online conversations.

Our study consists of three codesign sessions, conducted with four groups (17 participants total, 10 DHH, 7 hearing). We found that established groups crafted social accessibility norms that met their relational contexts. We also identify promising directions for future captioning design, including the need to standardize speaker identification and customization, opportunities to provide behavioral feedback during a conversation, and ways that videoconferencing platforms could enable groups to set and share norms.

The Effect of Increased Sensory Feedback from Neuromodulation and Exoskeleton use on Ankle Co-contraction in Children with Cerebral Palsy

Project lead: Charlotte Caskey

Children with cerebral palsy (CP) have altered gait that limits mobility through the activation of antagonistic muscle pairs simultaneously. This study will quantify changes in muscle co-contraction during walking with two devices that increase sensory feedback.

Children with cerebral palsy (CP) have altered gait that limits mobility. One hallmark of CP gait is increased muscle co-contraction, or the activation of antagonistic muscle pairs at the same time.This may contribute to increased energy expenditure and reduced physical activity for children with CP. Amplifying sensory feedback may help combat this by prompting more refined motor control and lead to reduced co-contraction with CP. The purpose of this study is to quantify changes in muscle co-contraction during walking with two devices that increase sensory feedback: an ankle exoskeleton with audiovisual feedback (Exo) and transcutaneous spinal cord stimulation (tSCS). The Exo provides increased haptic feedback targeting external sensory information while tSCS boost neural communication internally. We hypothesized that co-contraction would decrease when walking with spinal stimulation and the ankle exoskeleton. We compared changes in co-contraction of the biceps femoris and rectus femoris (BF/RF) and the tibialis anterior and soleus (TA/Sol)  with 1) no devices, 2) Exo only, 3) tSCS only, and 4) Exo+tSCS for 5 children with CP. We found that tSCS only led to the greatest reduction in TA/Sol co-contraction but Exo only and Exo+tSCS led to the greatest reductions in BF/RF co-contraction. This work is fundamental in helping us understand how children with CP respond within a single session of using these devices and how the devices might be used for longer term rehabilitation.

The Effects of Weakness, Contracture, and Altered Control on Walking Energetics During Crouch Gait

Project lead: Elijah Kuska

Cerebral palsy (CP) is the result of a pediatric brain injury that primarily alters control. However, individuals with CP often develop progressive, secondary impairments like weakness and contracture. Multi-modal impairments-that of control and morphology-impose complex restrictions on mobility and elevate energetics. This study seeks to utilize modeling, simulation, and machine learning to parse the relative effects of multi-modal impairments during non-disabled and CP gait, identifying the primary impairment driving elevated energetics.

Evaluating Customization of Remote Tele-operation Interfaces for Assistive Robots

Project lead: Vinitha Ranganeni

Mobile manipulator platforms, like the Stretch RE1 robot, make the promise of in-home robotic assistance feasible. For people with severe physical limitations, like those with quadriplegia, the ability to tele-operate these robots themselves means that they can perform physical tasks they cannot otherwise do themselves, thereby increasing their level of independence.

In order for users with physical limitations to operate these robots, their interfaces must be accessible and cater to the specific needs of all users. As physical limitations vary amongst users, it is difficult to make a single interface that will accommodate all users. Instead, such interfaces should be customizable to each individual user.

In this work we explore the value of customization of a browser-based interface for tele-operating the Stretch RE1 robot. More specifically, we evaluate the usability and effectiveness of a customized interface in comparison to the default interface configurations from prior work. We present a user study involving participants with motor impairments (N=10) and without motor impairments, who could serve as a caregiver, (N=13) that use the robot to perform mobile manipulation tasks in a real kitchen environment.

Our study demonstrates that no single interface configuration satisfies all users' needs and preferences. Users perform better when using the customized interface for navigation, but not for manipulation due to higher complexity of learning to manipulate through the robot. All participants are able to use the robot to complete all tasks and participants with motor impairments believe that having the robot in their home would make them more independent.

Exploring Virtual Whiteboard Sessions in Mixed Hearing Environments

Project lead: Shaun Kalweit

Traditional ideation processes have been challenged due to current hybrid work environments and reliance on telecommunication tools. Our sponsor, Microsoft Teams, offers a platform for collaborative work, including brainstorming with whiteboards. However, these virtual sessions pose accessibility issues for D/deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) individuals. This project aims to address the challenges faced by DHH users of Microsoft Teams Whiteboard during remote meetings and develop a solution to enhance inclusivity and accessibility.

GoBabyGo Modification

Project lead: Nadia Sanchez

The student engineers on this team will redesign a joystick control modification to a ride-on car for young children as well as develop an easy-to-follow assembly manual in order to make it easier for the GoBabyGo volunteers to assemble.

How Do People with Limited Movement Personalize Upper-Body Gestures?

Project lead: Momona Yamagami

Biosignal interfaces that use electromyography sensors, accelerometers, and other biosignals as inputs provide promise to improve accessibility for people with disabilities. However, generalized models that are not personalized to the individual’s abilities, body sizes, and skin tones may not perform well. Individualized interfaces that are personalized to the individual and their abilities could significantly enhance accessibility.

In this work, I discuss how personalized electromyography gesture interfaces can be personalized to each user's abilities and characterize personalized gestures for 25 participants with upper-body motor impairments. As biosignal interfaces become more commonly available, it is important to ensure that such interfaces have high performance across a wide spectrum of users.

Husky Adapt: Switch Kit

Project lead: Jordan Huang

The current switch kit has concerns regarding accessibility, safety, and durability. Our project seeks to modify and enhance a switch kit that enables children with disabilities to engage in collaborative play, providing a safe, enjoyable, and inclusive experience for all.

An Interactive Mat for Inclusive Gross Motor Play

Project lead: Sabrina Lin

Our mission is to design an accessible solution that will accommodate diverse needs and encourage inclusivity, in addition to co-creating other educational models to establish an equitable learning environment for students with and without disabilities at the Experimental Education Unit, an inclusive early childhood school community associated with the University of Washington. We focused on creating an interactive sensory mat for children to play “Floor is Lava,” encouraging them to further develop their gross motor skills and play collaboratively.

Notably Inaccessible – Understanding Data Science Notebook (In)Accessibility

Project lead: Venkatesh Potluri 

Computational notebooks, tools that facilitate storytelling through exploration, data analysis, and information visualization, have become the widely accepted standard in the data science community both in academia and industry. While there is extensive research that investigates how data scientists use these notebooks, identifies their pain points, and enables collaborative data science practices, very little is known about the various accessibility barriers experienced by blind and visually impaired (BVI) notebook users.

We present findings from a large scale analysis of 100K Jupyter notebooks, showing that BVI notebook users may experience accessibility barriers due to authoring practices, data representations in these notebooks, and the incapability of  tools and infrastructures that are used to work with these notebooks. we make recommendations to improve accessibility of the artifacts of a notebook, suggest authoring practices, and propose changes to infrastructure to make notebooks accessible.

A Pilot Study of Sidewalk Equity in Seattle Using Crowdsourced Sidewalk Assessment Data

Project lead: Chu Li

We examine the potential of using large-scale open crowdsourced sidewalk data from Project Sidewalk to study the distribution and condition of sidewalks in Seattle, WA. While potentially noisier than professionally gathered sidewalk datasets, crowdsourced data enables large, cross-regional studies that would be otherwise expensive and difficult to manage.

As an initial case study, we examine spatial patterns of sidewalk quality in Seattle and their relationship to racial diversity, income level, built density, and transit modes. We close with a reflection on our approach, key limitations, and opportunities for future work.

Quantifying device and environment exploration during powered mobility use in toddlers

Project lead: Nicole Zaino

Toddlers with mobility disabilities and delays require the use of technology to access self-initiated mobility at an early age which is critical for development, mobility, and social interaction. My work is on investigating the toddler-device-environment relationship and interaction for toddlers learning how to navigate and explore with a pediatric powered mobility device (Permobil Explorer Mini).

Sports Chair

Project lead: Yusuke Maruo

Our mission is to create a towing device that significantly improves the Seattle Adaptive Sports Center’s basketball athletes’ ability to transport their sports chair using their daily chair.

Steering Modifications to Support On-time Powered Mobility Use

Project lead: Kate Bokowy

Adapted ride-on cars are a great mobility learning tool for young kids with disabilities, but they can be hard to steer. We have created 3D-printed steering modifications to make it easier for a child to turn the steering wheel using different modalities.

Toward Open and Shared Pedestrian Path Network Mapping and Assessment at Scale

Project lead: Ricky Zhang

Manual mapping of pedestrian path networks is often a challenging task due to the substantial data requirements and potential errors. In response, we’ve developed AI-powered automated tools that integrate diverse types of globally-available data for proactive generation and analysis of pedestrian path and network data, with a keen focus on accessibility considerations. The resulting pedestrian path network data is represented in a standardized format per the OpenSidewalks data schema, making it readily usable in downstream routing and analytic applications.

Wireless Switch for Accessible Play

Project lead: Spencer Madrid

Our mission is to create a viable wireless switch that is more affordable than commercially available switches and is adapted to increase accessibility in any situation.


Classification of light rail stations using semantic segmentation

Project lead: Anat Caspi