Research

CREATE faculty, students, and partners collaborate on exciting breakthroughs in accessible technology—advancing inclusion and participation for people with disabilities.

We focus on enabling people with disabilities to be part of the creation process, giving people with disabilities the education, voice, inspiration, and opportunity to enter and move through their education and into professional settings.

This inclusive approach helps realize the disability mantra “nothing about us without us” as we pursue our ultimate goal: creating an inclusive and accessible world.

Energetic production and leadership

During the 2022-23 academic year:

  • CREATE researchers published 52 papers on accessibility. Six of those won awards and two won SIGCHI dissertation awards.
  • CREATE’s high-impact research in accessible technology and experiences included making 2-D visual content such as slides and visualizations accessible to blind people, automating large-scale mobile app accessibility analyses and repairs, mapping sidewalk and indoor accessibility, and studying the impacts of COVID-19 on students with disabilities.
  • CREATE and I-LABS continued their collaboration on the impact of access to mobility aids on early childhood development.

CREATE faculty bring multiple perspectives including technology design and engineering, and also disability rights and advocacy. CREATE founders have garnered 4 career-level awards: AAAS Fellow (Ladner), ACM Fellow (Wobbrock), ASSETS 10-year lasting impact award (Mankoff), and ACM SIGCHI Social Impact Award (Mankoff).

Some of CREATE’s high-impact research emphasizes:

AI and Machine Learning Research

AI has enormous potential to support needs and ways of being for people with disabilities. CREATE researchers are thoughtfully exploring AI’s implications for people with disabilities so they are included in the development and use of AI products and so they are protected from AI biases. Active research projects are addressing ableism, communication tools, health and activities of daily living, physical spaces and fabrication, digital accessibility and visualization, and interaction support.

More about AI and Machine Learning Research at CREATE

Early Access and the Brain

How do early experiences with mobility technology impact brain development and learning outcomes? CREATE is partnering with UW I-LABS to answer this and other questions. This joint work will demonstrate that early access to mobility technology is a critical asset for development and learning and also contributes to CREATE’s goal of understanding and addressing historical perceptions of disability and assistive technology, which often serve to perpetuate exclusion despite legislation protecting individuals’ rights to mobility and technology.

Ongoing collaborations with Go Baby Go and HuskyAdapt are providing early childhood access to accessibility tools.

More about Early Access and the Brain Research at CREATE

Mobile Device and Desktop Accessibility

Mobile apps have become a key feature of everyday life, with apps for banking, work, entertainment, communication, transportation, and education, to name a few. But many apps remain inaccessible to people with disabilities who use screen readers or other assistive technologies. CREATE is working to support automated diagnosis and repair of mobile app accessibility failures for all mobile apps. CREATE faculty are also exploring other aspects of mobile app accessibility, such as creating better touch screens based on how people with disabilities actually interact.

Collected at scale accessibility data from 312 apps over 16 months

Conducted qualitative accessibility evaluation of 30 popular Android educational games

100,000 downloads of the Pointing Magnifier, a desktop pointing aid that makes the mouse easier to use for people with limited fine motor function

Mobility, Indoors and Outdoors

Mobility is a precursor to community living and engagement and is a critical equity issue. Project Sidewalk, which uses deep learning and crowdsourcing to identify inaccessible sidewalks, and Open Sidewalks, which collects the data to provide routing directions to pedestrians personalized to their unique disability needs, are deployed in cities around the world, and have directly impacted not only pedestrians but also city governments and policies. 

20 cities engaged in improving pedestrian access

1 million labels for sidewalks provided by users 

More than 10 mapathons in the past year

Physical Computing for Accessibility

Physical computing, the combination of consumer-grade fabrication and computing technology, enables participation for people with disabilities in multiple home and community contexts. Now widely available, physical computing technology includes 3D-modeling software and machines such as laser cutters, 3D-printers, knitting machines and programmable embroidery machines. These technologies are already making a demonstrable and significant impact on community living and participation for people with disabilities in the form of 3D-printed tactile maps, customized tactile interactions on devices, specialized tools for creating assistive technology.

Through a NIDILRR ARRT on Physical Computing in Community Living and Participation grant, we are training postdoctoral fellows to be leaders in rehabilitation research who can harness advances in physical computing and fabrication to enhance community living and participation with people
with disabilities.

Access, Equity and Inclusion

CREATE’s work includes efforts to improve data equity. Examples include our commentary on disability bias in biometrics; an autoethnographic study to test AI tools’ utility for accessibility; and development of a blocks-based language accessible to students with disabilities. A recent CREATE seminar focused on the intersection of race and disability, which has led to a new initiative, Race, Disability & Technology.


RESEARCH NEWS


  • Anat Caspi speaks at White House panel on AI in Transportation

    June 17, 2024 CREATE associate director Anat Caspi spoke on ‘Mapping, Visualizing, and Building the Future’ as part of a White House panel on AI in Transportation. Focused on developing a national transportation infrastructure observatory and an accompanying application ecosystem, the panel gathered innovators in transportation, aiming to align end users, researchers, entrepreneurs, and federal…

    Read more


  • 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 Avery Mack will receive their Ph.D. from the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering. Advised by CREATE…

    Read more


  • CREATE Papers and Presentations at CHI 2024

    This is a work in progress as there are many papers and presentations from CREATE researchers at CHI 2024, the ACM CHI conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. We appreciate your patience! For a list of all papers from UW researchers, see DUB's roundoup. Papers A Virtual Reality Scene Taxonomy: Identifying and Designing Accessible…

    Read more


  • Empowering users with disabilities through customized interfaces for assistive robots

    March 15, 2024 For people with severe physical limitations such as quadriplegia, the ability to tele-operate personal assistant robots could bring a life-enhancing level of independence and self-determination. Allen School Ph.D. candidate Vinitha Ranganeni and her advisor, CREATE faculty member Maya Cakmak, have been working to understand and meet the needs of users of assistive…

    Read more


  • CREATE AI+Accessibility Hackfest - Winter '24

    March 6, 2024 - post-event update In March 2024, CREATE gathered with industry and community partners for a hackfest to explore and invent the future of AI and Accessibility. The event featured invited speakers Heather Nolis, Ian Stenseng, and Shaun Kane and exciting workshops on building custom GPT and creating accessible Jupyter notebooks. See the full…

    Read more

All Research News