• Wobbrock team's VoxLens allows screen-reader users to interact with data visualizations

    A screen reader with a refreshable Braille display. Credit: Elizabeth Woolner/Unsplash

    Working with screen-reader users, CREATE graduate student Ather Sharif and Co-Director Jacob O. Wobbrock, along with other UW researchers, have designed VoxLens, a JavaScript plugin that allows people to interact with visualizations. To implement VoxLens, visualization designers add just one line of code.

    Millions of Americans use screen readers for a variety of reasons, including complete or partial blindness, learning disabilities or motion sensitivity. But visually-oriented graphics often are not accessible to people who use screen readers. VoxLens lead author Sharif, a UW doctoral student in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering noted, “Right now, screen-reader users either get very little or no information about online visualizations, which, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, can sometimes be a matter of life and death. The goal of our project is to give screen-reader users a platform where they can extract as much or as little information as they want.”

    With written content, there is a beginning, middle and end of a sentence, Wobbrock, Co-senior author explained, “But as soon as you move things into two dimensional spaces, such as visualizations, there’s no clear start and finish. It’s just not structured in the same way, which means there’s no obvious entry point or sequencing for screen readers.”

    Participants learned how to use VoxLens and then completed nine tasks, each of which involved answering questions about a visualization. Compared to participants who did not have access to this tool, VoxLens users completed the tasks with 122% increased accuracy and 36% decreased interaction time.

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    This article was excerpted from a UW News article. Read the full article for additional details about the project.

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  • Heather Feldner 'wrote the book' on  power mobility device for babies

    CREATE Associate Director Heather Feldner has ​authored two guidebooks, instructing caregivers, researchers and ​clinicians how to introduce Permobil's ​Explorer Mini to young children between the ages of 12 and 36 months. Permobil's Explorer Mini is a new, lightweight, joystick-operated powered mobility device ​that provides opportunities for mobility, exploration, and play for children with disabilities at ages and stages that are more equitable compared to their peers without disabilities.

    Headshot of Heather Feldner, smiling brightly. She is a white woman with short brown and grey hair, and wears dark rimmed glasses, a gray shirt and black sweater.

    Feldner ​and her co-authors have synthesized their own work  and ​work from pioneers in the field, describing the benefits and impact of on-time access to mobility, as well as evidence-based strategies for introducing powered mobility to young children based on developmental and experiential learning stages. ​This multidisciplinary guideline was authored by Feldner, a pediatric physical therapist, Teresa Plummer, an occupational therapist, and Alyson Hendry, a speech-language pathologist, with key input from 40 stakeholders across the world, including caregivers of young children who use powered mobility devices.

    The guideline is available open-source and consists of a full, peer-reviewed research document as well as a caregiver guidebook version introducing the Explorer Mini and the various learning stages for infants and toddlers with disabilities. The guideline covers a wide variety of topics including collaborative partnership with caregivers and children, safety, a description of developmental domains that powered mobility introduction affects (such as cognition, communication, socio-emotional development, and participation), as well as practical tips and strategies for facilitating success in mobility and exploration at every learning stage. 

    Feldner’s research ​at UW centers on the design and implementation of mobility technology and its effects upon activity and participation within a variety of personal and environmental contexts, including how perceptions of disability and identity emerge and evolve through technology use. ​She is also engaged in research and advocacy work centered on disability as an integral part of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives and anti-ableism in healthcare education and beyond. 

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  • CREATE student Venkatesh Potluri is an Apple Scholar

    Venkatesh Potluri has been selected as a 2022 Apple Scholar — a fellowship that supports cutting-edge machine learning researchers at the graduate and post-graduate level.

    A Ph.D. student in the Allen School, Potluri is advised by CREATE Co-Director Jennifer Mankoff in the Make4All Group.

    Venkatesh Potluri leans toward the camera smiling with eyes cast downward.

    As an Apple Scholar, Potluri is recognized as an emerging leader in computer science and engineering and will receive funding to pursue his Ph.D., internship opportunities, and mentorship with an Apple researcher.

    Potluri's research makes overlooked software engineering spaces such as IOT and user interface development accessible to developers who are blind or visually impaired. Visually impaired himself, his work systematically understands the accessibility gaps in these spaces and addresses them by enhancing widely used programming tools.

    Previously, Potluri received a 2019 Google Lime Scholarship and a 2018-2019 Microsoft Endowed Fellowship.

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  • Feldner and Harniss receive research poster award for work on allyship training in rehabilitation education

    Heather Feldner and Mark Harniss team received a blue ribbon award as one of the top 3 posters for Social Responsibility at an American Physical Therapy Association meeting.

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  • Richard Ladner named AAAS Fellow

    Congratulations to CREATE Director for Education Richard Ladner on being named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)! He is among 564 new fellows from around the world elected in 2021 for distinguished achievements in science and engineering.

    Ladner was recognized for his advocacy and inclusion efforts for people with disabilities in computer science and related fields. His work has included development of numerous tools to perform specific tasks, including translating textbook figures into formats accessible to persons with disabilities, and enabling people to communicate via cell phones using American Sign Language.

    In addition to the AAAS fellowship, Ladner has been honored as a Guggenheim Fellow, a Fulbright Scholar, an Association for Computing Machinery Fellow and an IEEE Fellow.

    Excerpted from the UW News article. See the AAAS announcement.

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  • CREATE Submits RFI on Disability Bias in Biometrics

    CREATE's response to the Science and Technology Policy Office's request for "Information on Public and Private Sector Uses of Biometric Technologies"

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  • CREATE Co-Director Jacob O. Wobbrock Named ACM Fellow

    We congratulate CREATE Co-Director Jacob O. Wobbrock on being named an ACM Fellow by the Association for Computing Machinery for his contributions to human-computer interaction and accessible computing!

    Wobbrock's research seeks to understand and improve people’s interactions with computers and information, especially for people with disabilities. He is the primary creator of ability-based design, which scrutinizes the ability assumptions embedded in technologies in an effort to create systems better matched to what people can do.

    For this and his other contributions to accessible computing, he received the 2017 ACM SIGCHI Social Impact Award and the 2019 SIGACCESS ASSETS Paper Impact Award. He was also inducted to the ACM CHI Academy in 2019. In addition to being a CREATE founding co-director, Professor Wobbrock directs the ACE Lab and is a founding member of UW’s cross-campus DUB Group.

    The ACM is the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society. ​​Its Fellows program recognizes the top 1% of members for their outstanding accomplishments in computing and information technology and/or outstanding service to the ACM and the larger computing community. ACM Fellows are nominated by their peers, with nominations reviewed by a distinguished selection committee.

    Wobbrock, and the other 70 Fellows named in 2021 will be formally recognized at the ACM Awards Banquet in San Francisco in June.

    This article is adapted from the UW Information School (iSchool) article and the ACM press release.

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  • Findlater and co-authors receive 2020 Best Paper award for study of Voice Assistants by Older Adults

    The Association for Computing Machinery announced the 2020 Best Paper Award goes to Use of Intelligent Voice Assistants by Older Adults with Low Technology Use, co-authored by CREATE associate director Leah Findlater, Alisha Pradhan and Amanda Lazar.

    The team conducted a 3-week field deployment of the Amazon Echo Dot in the homes of seven older adults to understand how older, infrequent users of technology perceive and use voice assistants. They observed consistent usage for finding health-related information, highlighting concerns about credibility of information with this new interaction medium.

    Headshot of Leah Findlater, smiling warmly. She is a white woman with brown hair.

    Leah Findlater, CREATE Associate Director

    And while voice-based interaction appeared to be easy to learn, the study pointed to some usability and accessibility challenges to be addressed, including:

    • Devices timing out before users complete their voice commands
    • Unclear and inconsistent voice commands that must be remembered
    • Dependency on paired computing devices
    • Lack of awareness of the voice assistance device's capabilities

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  • Perkins School touts Blocks4All for blind and low vision students

    The Perkins School for the Blind — one of the most famous schools for the blind in the world — is heavy into technology for their students. Recently they touted the Blocks4All app, paired with a Dash robot, as a tool to teach block coding to blind and low vision students.

    "The Blocks4All app is completely accessible on the iPad with VoiceOver and Dash carries out the commands, making it easy for students who are visually impaired to know if they used the correct commands," wrote Diane Brauner, Perkins' manager of Paths to Technology.

    Blocks4All was developed by Lauren Milne, a former student of CREATE Director of Education, Richard Ladner. Milne is now an Assistant Professor at Macalester College in Minnesota.  

    This past summer, Milne and Ladner got together again with several students to make Blocks4All even more accessible and to create two activities for the Hour of Code.

    Learn more:

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  • Ph.D. student Ather Sharif targets personalized design, visualizations, ableism

    Media sites offer digital graphics for important information such as election polling data, stock market trends, and COVID-19, excluding many users. CREATE Ph.D. student Ather Sharif's research on Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) focuses on designing data visualizations to be accessible by people with low vision or who are blind.

    Headshot of Ather Sharif outside on a sunny balcony with blue sky behind him

    “We have built a world where people who are blind or have low vision are unable to... participate in the financial world or polling information. We have built technology where we have excluded them on a very fundamental level.”

    Ather Sharif, doctoral student in the Allen School at UW

    Before a car accident and intense physical therapy to recover the use of his hands, Sharif built websites without considering whether people with disabilities could access them. “It was only after I became a part of the disability community that I started to realize how inequitable the world is for people with disabilities, and I wanted to do something to fix that using the skills I already had,” Sharif said.

    With his new perspective, Sharif wants to see technology being built to adapt to the needs of its users — personalized technology as opposed to universal design, which is designed for the majority and forces users to adapt to technology.

    A doctoral student in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering, Sharif is co-advised by CREATE faculty Katharina Reinecke and CREATE Co-Director Jacob O. Wobbrock.


    This article was adapted and excerpted from the UW Graduate School's profile of Ather Sharif and his research. Read the full article.

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  • Feldner and Steele's 'Reimagining Mobility' series featured in The Daily

    Collaboration and diverse perspectives and approaches are at the heart of CREATE's mission to make technology accessible and make the world accessible though technology.

    One program developed by CREATE faculty looks at mobility solutions and ways to eliminate barriers. Hosted by CREATE associate directors Kat Steele and Heather Feldner, the Reimagining Mobility Conversation Hub brings in speakers from a variety of backgrounds and industries to inspire conversations about the future of mobility.

    The UW student newspaper, The Daily, featured the program in Reimagining Mobility: Professors Amplify Disabled Voices in the November 15 2021 issue.

    Headshot of Kat Steele, smiling warmly. She is a white woman with long brown hair.

    Working at a children’s hospital made me want to grow my knowledge as an engineer. There was just this disconnect of how we thought about technology, how we thought about what was possible, and what was actually available.

    Dr. Kat Steele, CREATE Associate Director and Albert S. Kobayashi Endowed Professor of Mechanical Engineering.

    Headshot of Heather Feldner, smiling brightly. She is a white woman with short brown and grey hair, and wears dark rimmed glasses, a gray shirt and black sweater.

    How we move around really impacts our social relationships. It impacts our ability to participate in school, in jobs, in social events — it's really one of our major connections to the world. The end goal of mobility is to engage in our lives and participate meaningfully.

    Dr. Heather Feldner, CREATE Associate Director and
    Assistant Professor, Rehabilitation Medicine: Physical Therapy

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  • Faculty and Alumni win awards at ASSETS 2021

    CREATE faculty and alumni scooped up several awards at the ASSETS 2021 conference. Paper Impact Award: Mankoff, Best Paper award: Katharina Reinecke, Best Artifact: scia11y team.

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  • CREATE Community Day and research showcase

    CREATE Community Day 2021 was a rich program that included an important discussion of the concerns and approaches to just, sustainable accessibility research that puts the needs of community members with disabilities front and center.

    CREATE members highlighted what their labs are doing, with time to hear about a variety of individual projects. Read on for a sample of the presentations.

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  • $1M NIDILRR award for leadership training program

    A team of CREATE faculty has received a five-year, $1M grant from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) for the project, "ARRT: Postdoctoral Training in Physical Computing and Fabrication to Support Innovations for Community Living and Participation." Congratulations on the funding to the team members:

    • Co-PI Jennifer Mankoff, Ph.D and Professor Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering
    • Co-PI Anat Caspi, Ph.D. and Principal, Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering
    • Heather Feldner, PT, Ph.D., PCS and Assistant Professor, School of Medicine, Department of Rehabilitation Medicine
    • Kat Steele, Ph.D. and Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering 

    The award funds a program that will train four postdoctoral fellows to become leaders in rehabilitation research who can harness advances in physical computing and fabrication to enhance community living and participation with people with disabilities. Each fellow will complete a 24-month training program to build their expertise in physical computing, fabrication, rehabilitation, and disability studies. Training will address a shortage of people qualified to harness, deliver, and advance physical computing for rehabilitation research. The four postdoctoral fellows will participate in research, coursework, and mentoring that expands expertise in using primary and complex adaptation tools, 3D-modeling software, and fabrication machines (e.g., laser cutters, 3D printers) for rehabilitation applications. Their innovative research, publications, presentations, and community resources will amplify the impacts of this training program.

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  • Grad student Kelly Mack receives a Dennis Lang award

    Kelly Mack, a Ph.D. student in Computer Science and mentored by CREATE Founding Co-Director Jen Mankoff, received a Dennis Lang Award from the UW Disabilities Studies program and the following praise:

    "Kelly is dedicated to improving accessibility for disabled students at UW through her research, service, and mentoring and allyship. Her thesis work will examine communication between DRS, students, and other stakeholders, and develop a prototype to allow tracking of DRS requests for improved accountability."

    This award honors Dennis Lang, a co-founder of the UW Disability Studies Program, for his dedication and service in the creation and growth of the UW Disability Studies community and program. The award goes to students who embody Dennis' spirited commitment to and academic excellence in the field of Disability Studies.

    Mack received a merit-based monetary award and was recognized at the Disability Studies convocation on June 4.

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  • Jon Froehlich named Outstanding Faculty Member by the UW College of Engineering

    Congrats to CREATE Associate Director Jon Froehlich on being selected for the Outstanding Faculty Award by the UW College of Engineering!

    As noted by the College, Froehlich went to extraordinary measures to support his students' learning during the pandemic. He fundamentally transformed physical computing courses for virtual platforms, assembled and mailed hardware kits to students’ homes, and developed interactive hardware diagrams, tutorials and videos. In addition, Froehlich co-created and led a group of university educators to share best practices for remote teaching of computing lab courses.

    Jon Froehlich, CREATE Associate Director and Allen School faculty member

    As chair for the conference ASSETS’22, Froehlich has helped ensure the conference is accessible to not only those with physical or sensory disabilities, but for those with chronic illnesses, caretaking responsibilities, or other commitments that prevent physical travel.

    In response to the award, Froehlich noted, "I quite literally could not have done this without [CREATE Founding Co-Directors] Jake and Jen's mentorship and support."

    This article was excerpted from the UW College of Engineering's CoE Awards announcement.

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  • The Future of Assistive Technology: A Panel Discussion

    Anat Caspi participated in a panel discussion on the future of assistive technology and how recent innovations are likely to affect the lives of people with disabilities.

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  • CREATE + I-LABS: focus on access, mobility, and the brain

    A new research and innovation partnership between CREATE and the UW Institute of Learning and Brain Sciences (I-LABS) focuses on access, mobility, and the brain, especially how early experiences with mobility technology impact brain development and learning outcomes.

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  • Education: Accessibility and Race

    The Fall 2020 CREATE Accessibility Seminar focused on the intersection of Race and Accessibility. This topic was chosen both for its timeliness and also as part of CREATE’s commitment to ensure that our work is inclusive, starting with educating ourselves about the role of race in disability research and the gaps that exist in the field.

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  • Caspi to lead collaborative $11.45M Transportation Data Equity Initiative

    Tools like Google Directions and OneBusAway give up-to-date travel and transit information to make regional transit easier for most. But mobility applications focus on efficiency and shortest paths, leaving out information critical to people with disabilities, older adults, and anybody needing more support.

    The Taskar Center for Accessible Technology, led by CREATE Associate Director for Translation Anat Caspi, and the UW's Washington State Transportation Center will work with Microsoft, Google, the Washington Department of Transportation and other public and private partners to develop transit mobility technology as part of the Transportation Data Equity Initiative.

    A bright pink placard with a wheelchair user icon and the words Step Free Route planted in bright green grass

    The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded the project $11.45 million in January as part of a program focused on promoting independent mobility for all.

    Anat Caspi, CREATE Director for Translation and Affiliate Assistant Professor, Electrical & Computer Engineering

    “Transportation and mobility play key roles in the struggle for civil rights and equal opportunity. Affordable and reliable transportation allows people access to important opportunities in education, employment, health care, housing and community life,” said project lead Anat Caspi.

    “Our goal is to translate the UW’s accessible technology research and data science products into real-world use, building technology foundations for good and avoiding repetition of exclusion patterns of the past or creation of new travel barriers to individuals.”

    This article was excerpted from the UW News. Read the full article.

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