News

The Here And Now Project – A Community Partner Profile

The Here and Now Project's logo, with a red map location marker in place of the O in Now.

The mission of The Here and Now Project (H&NP) is to connect and empower the paralysis community in the Pacific Northwest. They provide care baskets, adaptive water bottles, and peer support to the newly paralyzed and host a rotating calendar of monthly gatherings and other seasonal events and activities throughout Western Washington.

H&NP Co-founder and President Kenny Salvini shared the project’s inspiration, recent successes, and foremost goals.

“I’ve learned that everyone I meet has a story and a voice that has the power to change the lives of others as well as their own,” said Salvini.

Salvini’s own story took a sudden turn 19 years ago. He was skiing as he often did–going big on Snoqualmie Pass. But an accident turned the confident daredevil into an isolated and depressed quadriplegic. It all changed again after a conversation with others with similar stories.

Kenny Salvini, seated in a powered wheelchair controlled by head movements with an adapted water bottle. He is wearing a puffy jacket and a baseball cap.

Salvini cofounded The Here and Now Project to provide what he needed: connection, community, support.

Bringing people together and letting the sparks fly

Through private support groups, community activities and larger annual gatherings, H&NP has created a fellowship who encourage and inspire each other to “Do Life” ​in the ​here and now. This interchange of experience has provided strength and hope for members to create more enhanced, accessible, and independent lives.

Ten wheelchair users gathered at a Here And Now  Project event.

One more piece of assistive tech away from our fullest potential

Two major issues facing H&NP members, after cost, are flexibility and interchangeability. “Many of our members rely on multiple modes of AT to move through the world. As a C3-4 complete quadriplegic rolling around on a head-controlled power wheelchair, I could only control my Apple iPhone with Switch Control by stopping and changing to a different mode on my chair. The advent of Voice Control allowed me to multitask and get work done while moving through the house or strolling down a trail, but the minute it gets loud in my vicinity, I still have the option to use my switches to get stuff done,” explained Salvini.

“Accessible and assistive technology remove barriers to independence and have literally saved my life and helped me find purpose after my injury. I always say that everyone is one more piece of assistive tech away from their fullest potential, whether that’s a simple pair of off-the-shelf reading eyeglasses, or some of the emerging brain-computer interface technology aimed at helping folks with late stage ALS regain the ability to communicate,” Salvini emphasized.

As a CREATE Community Partner, H&NP encourages members to participate in research studies on safe and accessible housing, assistive devices, and... As experts in their own lived experiences, we look to their knowledge and input to improve devices, technology, and tools for people living with paralysis.

Looking ahead: More outreach, more partnerships with organizations like CREATE

“We are just wrapping up a round of strategic planning to set some concrete goals, but it is really about expanding our outreach to the newly diagnosed and those in the underserved cross-sections of the community that are still falling through the cracks. We also want to continue building connections with the hospitals that serve our community, and all the great organizations like CREATE that are doing meaningful work to improve the lives of all people with disabilities.”

Over the two decades since his 2004 spinal cord injury, Salvini says he has learned that his ongoing mental, emotional, and spiritual recovery benefits greatly from meeting and learning from others in similar situations. “With H&NP, we are looking to create spaces where folks from all facets of our increasingly intersectional community can come together and do the same,” he said.

Successes: A program for kids and a return to meeting knee-to-knee

Asked about recent accomplishments and milestones, Salvini noted a recent partnership between H&NP and Seattle Children’s Hospital to create a youth-to-adult peer support program called Here Now Next. The seven-session series is facilitated by active adult members who were all injured or diagnosed in their youth and is designed to offer mentorship and guidance for participants and their families. “We recently completed our second pilot with a group of remarkable young people, and there is a lot of energy and excitement around the program as a whole,” Salvini said.

“Beyond that, I’d say our biggest accomplishment was simply the return to our in-person programming after two full years of strictly virtual gatherings. The pandemic hit us hard because we serve a community that trends a little more medically fragile. While I’m proud of the way we pivoted to the virtual space, it was really nice to get knee-to-knee with our people once again.”


Kenny Salvini is a co-founder and President of The Here and Now Project, a writer for New Mobility Magazine, and an advocate on the local and national levels. He shared his story and the successes and current goals of H&NP with CREATE’s Public Community Engagement and Partnerships Manager, Kathleen Quin Voss.

Postdoctoral Fellowship application open: Accessibility researcher in physical computing and fabrication

Update: January 2, 2024

CREATE, the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering, the College of Engineering, and the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine have an opening for a Postdoctoral Scholar.

The goal of this fellowship is to train leaders in accessibility research who can harness advances in physical computing and fabrication to enhance community living and participation with people with disabilities. Specifically, we seek applicants who are interested in developing their skills and expertise investigating how fabrication technologies (e.g., 3D printing and machine knitting) and physical computing technologies can be used to address challenges in rehabilitation technology and accessibility. Applicants from technical backgrounds (e.g., computer science or engineering), rehabilitation medicine (e.g., physical or occupational therapy), or disability studies are encouraged to apply. Multiple postdoctoral fellows with complementary backgrounds will be recruited to collaborate and advance multidisciplinary innovation. Each postdoctoral scholar will be mentored by at least two faculty from the CREATE center.

Application deadlines

Application review begins February 15, 2024 and continues until the position is filled. Start date is flexible but September 2024 is preferred. 

CREATE’s mission includes ensuring that people with disabilities are able to participate in the research process; and CREATE’s faculty and students include people with disabilities. CREATE also has funding to help address accessibility concerns above and beyond the support offered by the UW Campus disability offices. CREATE’s mission also includes a focus on racial equity and representation across intersectional identities.

Postdoctoral scholar appointments are full time, with a 12-month service period. Reappointments may be possible, inclusive of all postdoctoral experience at other institutions. Anticipated start is September 2024. This individual will work closely with a team of computer scientists, engineers, rehabilitation professionals, disability studies scholars and human computer interaction experts from CREATE to improve accessibility for people with disabilities.

For this NIDILRR-funded research, the postdoctoral fellows will engage in 70% research, 20% didactics, and 10% community engagement. The primary responsibilities for each fellow will be to propose and execute an accessibility research project that uses physical computing and fabrication applications to improve community living for people with disabilities including scholarly publications and presentations; engage in coursework and seminars that supplement existing knowledge in areas of engineering, rehabilitation, and disability studies; engage with community organizations that serve disability communities in the Western Washington region to identify participation and technology needs; and facilitate a community-based physical computing workshop.  

We are looking for candidates who have a passion for multidisciplinary research and have expertise in one or more of: the technical aspects of accessibility; rehabilitation technology; disability studies; and fabrication/physical computing technologies. You will be working closely with people with disabilities, engineers, rehabilitation professionals, and other scientists throughout the research project. This training grant is led by four faculty from the Center for Research and Education in Accessible Technology and Experiences (CREATE):

The overarching mission of CREATE is to make technology accessible and make the world accessible through technology. We take a needs-based, human-centered approach to accessibility research and education, work closely with stakeholders in disability communities, and apply knowledge and skills across computer science, rehabilitation medicine, engineering, design, and disability studies to improve access and quality of life for diverse populations. More information about our center and on-going research can be found on the CREATE website.

Qualifications

Applicants must have a Ph.D. or foreign equivalent, at the start date of the position, in engineering, human centered design, or rehabilitation science. Other life sciences may be considered. Rehabilitation professionals should be licensed or eligible for licensure in their respective discipline in the State of Washington. Strong oral and written communication skills and the ability to work as an effective member of a multidisciplinary team are critical for the success of this research. Candidates may have no more than 48 months of prior postdoc experience in order to fulfill the initial 1-year appointment period.

Application instructions

Applicants should provide all of the following:

  1. A cover letter clearly describing your interest and relevant background in this project
  2. A CV
  3. Copies of two representative publications
  4. Contact information for three references

Submit application and materials to create-jobs@uw.edu.

Questions about the project and application may also be submitted to create-jobs@uw.edu.

Jacob O. Wobbrock awarded Ten-Year Technical Impact Award

January 5, 2023

The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) has honored CREATE Co-Director Jacob O. Wobbrock and colleagues with a 10-year lasting impact award for their groundbreaking work improving how computers recognize stroke gestures.

Jacob O. Wobbrock, a 40-something white man with short hair, a beard, and glasses. He is smiling in front of a white board.

Wobbrock, a professor in the Information School, and co-authors Radu-Daniel Vatavu and Lisa Anthony were presented with the 2022 Ten Year Technical Impact Award in November at the ACM International Conference on Multimodal Interaction (ICMI). The award honors their 2012 paper titled Gestures as point clouds: A $P recognizer for user interface prototypeswhich also won ICMI’s Outstanding Paper Award when it was published.

The $P point-cloud gesture recognizer was a key advancement in the way computers recognize stroke gestures, such as swipes, shapes, or drawings on a touchscreen. It provided a new way to quickly and accurately recognize what users’ fingers or styluses were telling their devices to do, and even could be used with whole-hand gestures to accomplish more complex tasks such as typing in the air or controlling a drone with finger movements.

The research built on Wobbrock’s 2007 invention of the $1 unistroke recognizer, which made it much easier for devices to recognize single-stroke gestures, such as a circle or a triangle. Wobbrock called it “$1” — 100 pennies — because it required only 100 lines of code, making it easy for user interface developers to incorporate gestures in their prototypes.

This article was excerpted from the UW iSchool article, iSchool’s Wobbrock Honored for Lasting Impact by Doug Parry

Rory Cooper, CREATE Advisory Board member, receives IEEE Biomedical Engineering Award

Congratulations to CREATE Advisory Board member Rory Cooper on receiving the 2022 IEEE Biomedical Engineering Award!

For more than 25 years, Cooper has been developing technology to improve the lives of people with disabilities and his inventions have helped countless wheelchair users get around with more ease and comfort. 

Rory A. Cooper, a white man with salt-and-pepper hair, dressed in a suit and tie.

Cooper’s first innovations in mobility were a modification to the back brace he wore after a spinal cord injury left him paralyzed from the waist down, then a better wheelchair, then an electric-powered version that helped its user stand up. After earning his Ph.D. in electrical & computer engineering with a concentration in bioengineering at University of California at Santa Barbara, he focused his career on developing assistive technology.

Cooper (second from the left) and his colleagues—David Constantine, Jorge Candiotti, and Andrin Vuthaj (standing)—at the University of Pittsburgh’s Human Engineering Research Laboratories working on the MEBot. Photo: ABIGAIL ALBRIGHT

Since 2013, Cooper and his team at the University of Pittsburgh’s Human Engineering Research Laboratories have been working to develop advancements including a wheelchair that can travel on rough terrain. 

The most common cause of emergency-room visits by wheelchair users is falling from the chair or tipping over. “This often happens when the individual’s wheelchair hits thresholds in doorways, drives off small curbs, or transitions from a sidewalk to a ramp,” Cooper said.

The team hopes that the Mobility Enhancement Robotic Wheelchair, known as the MEBot, can minimize such injuries.

The MEBot, can climb curbs up to 20 centimeters high and can self-level as it drives over uneven terrain. It does so thanks to six wheels that move up and down plus two sets of smaller omnidirectional wheels in the front and back. The wheelchair’s larger, powered wheels can reposition themselves to simulate front-, mid-, or rear-wheel drive.


This article is excerpted from the IEEE Spectrum’s award announcement.

Carl James Dunlap Memorial Scholarship

University of Washington student Carl James Dunlap had a powerful impact on the UW community with his vibrant personality and persistent advocacy for students with disabilities. To honor his legacy, the Dunlap family established the Carl James Dunlap Memorial Endowment. The Dunlap Memorial Endowment seeks to support students with disabilities encountering unique challenges when attending and completing higher education. The D Center is grateful to further Carl’s legacy by awarding two $2,000 Carl James Dunlap Memorial Scholarships to UW students for Winter 2023.

The Dunlap Memorial Scholarship selection criteria is a UW student who identifies as having a disability and is currently receiving financial aid.

Apply no later than January 31

If you have any questions, please contact the D Center at dcenter@uw.edu.


The Carl James Dunlap Memorial Fund is accepting donations to further help students with disabilities.

Flyer for the Carl James Dunlap Memorial Scholarship with a link to contact dcenter@uw.edu for details and a picture of the UW Seattle campus in fall.

UnlockedMaps provides real-time accessibility info for rail transit users

Congratulations to CREATE Ph.D. student Ather SharifOrson (Xuhai) Xu, and team for this great project on transit access! Together they developed UnlockedMaps, a web-based map that allows users to see in real time how accessible rail transit stations are in six metro areas including Seattle, Philadelphia (where the project was first conceived by Sharif and a friend at a hackathon), Chicago, Toronto, New York, and the California Bay Area.

screenshot of UnlockedMaps in New York. Stations that are labeled green are accessible while stations that are labeled orange are not accessible. Yellow stations have elevator outages reported.

Shown here is a screenshot of UnlockedMaps in New York. Stations that are labeled green are accessible while stations that are labeled orange are not accessible. Yellow stations have elevator outages reported.

Sharif, a UW doctoral student in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering advised by CREATE Co-Director Jacob O. Wobbrock, said the team also included nearby and accessible restaurant and bathroom data. “I think restaurants and restrooms are two of the most common things that people look for when they plan their commute. But no other maps really let you filter those out by accessibility. You have to individually click on each restaurant and check if it’s accessible or not, using Google Maps. With UnlockedMaps, all that information is right there!”

Adapted from UW News interview with Ather Sharif. Read full article »

CREATE Contributes to RFP on Healthcare Accessibility

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) requested public comment about comprehensive, longitudinal, person-centered care planning for people with Multiple Chronic Conditions (MCC). CREATE contributed to a disability justice-focused response that highlights nine recommendations:

  1. Account for medical trauma.
  2. Meet basic standards for accessibility.
  3. Value individual and community knowledge about MCC.
  4. Treat accessibility as a first-class component of patient care.
  5. Prioritize community.
  6. Look beyond “care.”
  7. Remove financial barriers.
  8. Include people with MCC in planning.
  9. Enable people with MCC to enter clinical roles

Read the full response (PDF).

Wobbrock Co-leads ACM UIST Conference, Brings Accessibility to the Conversation

CREATE founding Co-Director Jacob O. Wobbrock served as General Co-Chair for ACM User Interface Software and Technology (UIST) 2022, held at the end of October.

Nearly 500 people traveled to beautiful Bend, OR to share their latest innovations in user interface software and technology from fabrication and materials, to VR and AR, to interactive tools and interaction techniques. UIST showcased the very best inventive research in the field of human-computer interaction. “Attending UIST is like attending an exclusive preview of possible tomorrows, where one gazes into the future and imagines living there, if only for a moment,” said Wobbrock.

Two photos from UIST 2022 Conference: A table of attendees chatting animatedly and a photo of Jacob O. Wobbrock and closing keynote speaker Marissa Mayer

Bringing accessibility into the conversation, Wobbrock’s opening keynote questioned the assumptions made in statements we often see, such as, “Just touch the screen” assumes the ability to see the screen, to move the hand, and so on.

For the closing keynote, available on YouTube, Wobbrock interviewed Marissa Mayer, former CEO of Yahoo and an early employee at Google. She studied Symbolic Systems and Computer Science with a focus on artificial intelligence at Stanford, along with Wobbrock. Mayer answered audience questions, including one about making design choices through a combination of crowdsourcing, an abundance of data, and strong opinions.

CREATE Leadership at ASSETS’22 Conference

ASSETS 2022 logo, composed of a PCB-style Parthenon outline with three people standing and communicating with each other in the Parthenon, representing three main iconic disabilities: blind, mobility impaired, deaf and hard of hearing.

CREATE Associate Director Jon Froehlich was the General Chair for ASSETS’22, the premier ACM conference for research on the design, evaluation, use, and education related to computing for people with disabilities and older adults. This year, over 300 participants from 37 countries engaged with state-of-the-art research in the design and evaluation of technology for people with disabilities. UW CREATE was a proud sponsor of ASSETS’22.

Keynote speaker Haben Girma is the first Deafblind graduate of Harvard Law School and a leading human rights advocate in disability. Girma highlighted systemic ableism in education, employment, and tech and opportunities for change in her speech.

“There is a myth that non-disabled people are independent and disabled people are dependent. We are all interdependent. Many of you like drinking coffee; very few of you grow your own beans,” she pointed out.

ASSETS’22 was held in Athens, Greece. “The birthplace of democracy, we were surrounded by so many beautiful antiquities that highlighted the progress and innovation of humanity and served as inspiration to our community,” said Froehlich.

“Perhaps my favorite experience was the accessible private tours of the Acropolis Museum with conference attendees—hearing of legends, seeing the artistic craft, and moving about a state-of-the-art event center all in the shadow of the looming Acropolis was an experience I’ll never forget,” he added.

Artifact awards

CREATE Ph.D. student Venkatesh Potluri, advised by CREATE Co-Director Jennifer Mankoff in the Make4All Group, and his team tied for 1st place for the Artifact Award. Potluri presented their work on CodeWalk, Facilitating Shared Awareness in Mixed-Ability Collaborative Software Development.

Third place went to Ather Sharif‘s team, advised by Jacob Wobbrock, UnlockedMaps: Visualizing Real-Time Accessibility of Urban Rail Transit Using a Web-Based Map.

Future of urban accessibility

As part of the conference, Froehlich, Heather Feldner, and Anat Caspi held a virtual workshop entitled the “Future of Urban Accessibility” More here: https://accessiblecities.github.io/UrbanAccess2022/

A Ph.D. Student’s Promising Research in Mobility in Cerebral Palsy

Whether she’s researching how biofeedback systems can guide gait training in children with cerebral palsy or leading toy adaptation events, Alyssa Spomer is committed to advancing accessible technology.

A Ph.D. student in UW Mechanical Engineering (ME) and advised by CREATE Associate Director Kat Steele, Spomer is the student chair of CREATE-sponsored HuskyADAPT. Her studies have been multidisciplinary, spanning ME and rehabilitation medicine. She uses her engineering skills to understand the efficacy of using robotic devices to target and improve neuromuscular control during walking.

“Delving into how the central nervous system controls movement and how these systems are impacted by brain injury has been such an interesting aspect of my work,” Spomer says. “My research is a mix of characterizing the capacity for individuals to adapt their motor control and movement patterns, and evaluating the efficacy of devices that may help advance gait rehabilitation.”

In her dissertation work, Spomer is primarily evaluating how individuals adapt movement patterns while using a pediatric robotic exoskeleton paired with an audiovisual biofeedback system that she helped design. The Biomtoum SPARK exoskeleton works to sense and support motion at the ankle during walking, using motors worn on a hip belt to provide either resistance or assistance to the ankles during walking. The audiovisual system is integrated into the device’s app and provides the user with real-time information on their ankle motion alongside a desired target to help guide movement correction.

Collage of two images. Left: Man walking on a treadmill wearing a robotic exoskeleton device around his hips and legs while a female researcher monitors the process through a tablet. Right: A closeup of the researcher's hands holding the tablet showing the real-time information.
The audiovisual system that Spomer helped design (shown on a screen in the right photo) provides the user with real-time information on their ankle motion alongside a desired target to help guide movement correction.

Inspired by CREATE’s Kat Steele and the Steele Lab

Spomer was drawn to ME by the Steele Lab’s focus on enhancing human mobility through engineering and design. Working with Kat Steele has been a highlight of her time at the UW.

“I really resonated with Kat’s approach to research,” Spomer says. “The body is the ultimate machine, meaning that we as engineers can apply much of our foundational curriculum in dynamics and control to characterize its function. The beauty of ME is that you are able to develop such a rich knowledge base with numerous applications which really prepares you to create and work in these multidisciplinary spaces.”

This winter, Spomer will begin a new job at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare. She’s excited to pursue research that aligns with her Ph.D. work. Her goal remains the same: “How can we advance and improve the accessibility of healthcare strategies to help promote independent and long-term mobility?”

Excerpted from UW Mechanical Engineering, written by Lyra Fontaine with photos by Mark Stone, University of Washington. Read the full article

Increasing Data Equity Through Accessibility

Data equity can level the playing field for people with disabilities both in opening new employment opportunities and through access to information, while data inequity may amplify disability by disenfranchising people with disabilities.

In response to the U.S. Science and Technology Policy Office’s request for information (RFI) better supporting intra- and extra-governmental collaboration around the production and use of equitable data, CREATE Co-director, Jennifer Mankoff co-authored a position statement with Frank Elavsky, Carnegie Mellon University and Arvind Satyanarayan, MIT Visualization Group. The authors address the three questions most pertinent to the needs of disabled people.

They highlight the opportunity to expand upon the government’s use of accessible tools to produce accessible visualizations through broad-based worker training. “From the CDC to the Census Bureau, critical data that is highly important to all historically underrepresented peoples and should be available to underrepresented scholars and research institutions to access and use, must be accessible to fully include everyone.”

Reiterating “Nothing about us without us,” the statement notes that when authoring policies that involve data, access, and equitable technology, people with disabilities must be consulted. “Calls for information, involvement, and action should explicitly invite and encourage participation of those most affected.” In addition to process notes, the response addresses roles, education, laws, and tools.

Just having access to data is not enough, or just, when power, understanding and action are in the hands of government agents, computer scientists, business people and the many other stakeholders implementing data systems who do not themselves have disabilities.

The statement identifies access to the tools for producing accessible data, such as data visualizations, as low-hanging fruit and concludes with a call for funding of forward-thinking research that investigates structural and strategic limitations to equitable data access. More research is needed to investigate the ways that various cultural and socio-economic factors intersect with disability and access to technology.

Read the details in the full response on arxiv.org (PDF).

Large-Scale Analysis Finds Many Mobile Apps Are Inaccessible

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.

Any person who uses an assistive technology can describe negative experiences with apps that do not provide proper support. For example, screen readers unhelpfully announce “unlabeled button” when they encounter a screen widget without proper information provided by the developer.

iStockPhoto image of several generic application icons such as weather, books, music, etc.

We know that apps often lack adequate accessibility, but until now, it has been difficult to get a big picture of mobile app accessibility overall.

How good or bad is the state of mobile app accessibility? What are the common problems? What can be done?

Research led by Ph.D. student Anne Spencer Ross and co-advised by James Fogarty (CREATE Associate Director) and Jacob O. Wobbrock (CREATE Co-Director) has been examining these questions in first-of-their-kind large-scale analyses of mobile app accessibility. Their latest research automatically examined data from approximately 10,000 apps to identify seven common types of accessibility failures. Unfortunately, this analysis found that many apps are highly inaccessible. For example, 23% of the analyzed apps failed to provide accessibility metadata, known as a “content description,” for more than 90% of their image-based buttons. The functionality of those buttons will therefore be inaccessible when using a screen reader.

A bar chart showing the percentage of application icons and images missing labels. Out of 8,901 apps, 23 percent were not missing labels, 23 percent were missing labels on all elements. The rest of the apps were missing labels for 6 to 7 percent of their elements.
Bar chart shows that 23 percent of apps are missing labels on all their elements. Another 23 percent were not missing labels on any elements. And the rest were missing labels on 6 to 7 percent of their elements.

Clearly, we need better approaches to ensuring all apps are accessible. This research has also shown that large-scale data can help identify reasons why such labeling failures occur. For example, “floating action buttons” are a relatively new Android element that typically present a commonly-used command as an image-button floating atop other elements. Our analyses found that 93% of such buttons lacked a content description, so they were even more likely than other buttons to be inaccessible. By examining this issue closely, Ross and her advisors found that commonly used software development tools do not detect this error. In addition to highlighting accessibility failures in individual apps, results like these suggest that identifying and addressing underlying failures in common developer tools can improve the accessibility of many apps.

Next, the researchers aim to detect a greater variety of accessibility failures and to include longitudinal analyses over time. Eventually, they hope to paint a complete picture of mobile app accessibility at scale.

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

We are excited to celebrate the launch of a new research and innovation partnership between CREATE and the UW Institute of Learning and Brain Sciences (I-LABS) focusing on access, mobility, and the brain.

Mobility technology such as manual and powered wheelchairs, scooters, and modified ride-on toy cars, are essential tools for young children with physical disabilities to self-initiate exploration, make choices, and learn about the world. In essence, these devices are mobile learning environments.

Collage of several toddlers playing, learning and laughing on modified ride-on toys

The collaboration, led by Heather Feldner and Kat Steele from CREATE, and Pat Kuhl and Andy Meltzoff from I-LABS, brings together expertise from fields of rehabilitation medicine and disability studies, engineering, language development, psychology, and learning. The team will address several critical knowledge gaps, starting with, How do early experiences with mobility technology impact brain development and learning outcomes? What are critical periods for mobility?

Read the full Research Highlight.

Accessible teaching strategies

CREATE faculty member Stephanie Kerschbaum has contributed to a set of guidelines to help UW faculty plan, design, and adapt their teaching around students’ needs.

Headshot of Stephanie Kerschbaum, a white woman with short, red hair wearing a suit and pearls

“Accessibility is about recognizing that access is a complex, relational configuration as people move and share space together. Accessible teaching requires us to be in conversation with and responsive to our students.”

– Stephanie Kerschbaum, UW professor and disability studies scholar

The guidelines include general strategies such as anticipating students’ needs and using technology that supports accessibility and discarding technology that may impede it. Specific strategies include alternative assignments, smaller quizzes, and/or take home exams to provide students greater flexibility and agency.

Visit the UW Center for Learning and Teaching’s Accessible Teaching Strategies webpage for details and share the link with colleagues!

Community Day & Research Showcase 2022

CREATE’s 2nd Annual Community Day took place on June 8th and was a tremendous success. With over 100 registered participants and presenters, this year’s event demonstrates strong growth, returning to in-person (and also virtual) panel discussions and a research showcase of 14 project teams.

This year’s panels addressed the disproportionate impact of access to assistive technology on children with disabilities in BIPOC and immigrant communities as well as the issues that arise with the intersection of accessibility and biometric technologies. We were honored to host panelists from the AHSHAY CenterProvailOpen Doors for Multicultural Families, UW’s Taskar Center for Accessible Technology, and the University of Maryland’s iSchool.

Learn more:

CREATE becomes a principal sponsor of HuskyADAPT

CREATE is pleased to be a financial and advisory sponsor of HuskyADAPT, an interdisciplinary community that is dedicated to improving the availability of accessible technology in Washington and fostering conversations about the importance of accessible design. 

HuskyADAPT is led by a team of UW students and six faculty advisors, including CREATE directors Kat SteeleHeather FeldnerAnat Caspi and Jennifer Mankoff. Open to all to join, their three primary focus areas are annual design projects, K-12 outreach and toy adaptation workshops, where volunteers learn how to modify off-the-shelf toys to make them switch accessible. The team also collaborates closely with Go Baby Go!.

Sign up for HuskyADAPT’s newsletter

HuskyADAPT logo, with 3 heaxagons containing icons of tools, people and vehicles.

Ga11y improves accessibility of automated GIFs for visually impaired users

Animated GIFs, prevalent in social media, texting platforms and websites, often lack adequate alt-text descriptions, resulting in inaccessible GIFs for blind or low-vision (BLV) users and the loss of meaning, context, and nuance in what they read. In an article published in the Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’22), a research team led by CREATE Co-director Jacob O. Wobbrock has demonstrated a system called Ga11y (pronounced “galley”) for creating GIF annotations and improving the accessibility of animated GIFs.

Video describing Ga11y, an Automated GIF Annotation System for Visually Impaired Users. The video frame shows an obscure image and the question, How would you describe this GIF to someone so they can understand it without seeing it?

Ga11y combines the power of machine intelligence and crowdsourcing and has three components: an Android client for submitting annotation requests, a backend server and database, and a web interface where volunteers can respond to annotation requests.

Wobbrock’s co-authors are Mingrui “Ray” Zhang, a Ph.D. candidate in the UW iSchool, and Mingyuan Zhong, a Ph.D. student in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering.

Part of this work was funded by CREATE.

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.

Learn more


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

Accessible & Inclusive Textiles Hackfest

July 15, 2022

In July 2022, CREATE hosted a hackfest for anyone interested in exploring, generating, and working with a variety of textile artifacts that center access and inclusion. From knitting patterns that can be automatically modified to address specific access needs, to auxetic harnesses that can comfortably hold a child in a ride on an accessible toy car, we see an opportunity to create new pipelines for equitable participation and access. Similarly, clothing and accessories can express style, support the profile of a body presenting according to gender preference, and fit with specific cultural identities. 

We invite you to join us in envisioning accessible and inclusive textile futures by creating new approaches and ideas together during our hackfest.

Judging event and details

The judges included:

The prize for the top project will be an embroidery machine.

Mentors

Jennifer Mankoff, CREATE Co-Director and the Richard E. Ladner Professor, Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering, whose work is focused on giving people with disabilities the voice, tools and agency to advocate for themselves. She takes a multifaceted approach that includes machine learning, 3D printing, and tool building, at a high level, Mankoff’s goal is to tackle the technical challenges necessary for everyday individuals and communities to solve real-world problems.

Afroditi Psara, a UW assistant professor in the UW Digital Arts and Experimental Media (DXARTS) and transdisciplinary artist whose research focuses on the art and science interaction with a critical discourse in the creation of artifacts. Interested in the revitalization of tradition as a methodology of hacking existing norms about technical objects, she uses cyber crafts and other gendered practices as speculative strings, and open-source technologies as educational models of diffusing knowledge. 

Daniela Rosner, an associate professor in Human Centered Design & Engineering (HCDE) at the UW. Her research investigates the social, political, and material circumstances of technology development. She has worked in design research at Microsoft Research, Adobe Systems, Nokia Research and as an exhibit designer at several museums and is the author of several articles on craft and technoculture, including “Legacies of craft and the centrality of failure in a mother-operated hackerspace.”

Jen Mankoff receives SIGCHI Social Impact Award

Jennifer Mankoff, a white, Jewish woman with an invisible disability. She is smiling broadly and standing casually in the Allen Center atrium

Congratulations to CREATE Co-Director Jennifer Mankoff! She has been awarded a 2022 Social Impact Award by SIGCHI, the special interest group of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) for professionals, academics and students interested in human-technology and human-computer interaction (HCI).

Mankoff was cited for research focused on accessibility to give people the voice, tools and agency to advocate for themselves. “She strives to make change at both structural and individual levels. For example, her recent work on fabrication of accessible technologies considers not only innovative tools that can enable individual makers, but also the larger clinical and sociological challenges to disseminating and sharing designs.”

SIGCHI also noted Mankoff’s work at the intersection of mental health and discrimination that uses sensed data and self-reports to explore how external risks and pressures interact with people’s responses to challenging moments such as discrimination experiences, or classroom access. In addition, she has conducted leading work supporting environmental sustainability and topics relevant to gender and race.

Within SIGCHI, Mankoff spent many years working with, and at times leading, AccessSIGCHI, an independent organization that advocates for improved inclusion of people with disabilities within the SIGCHI community. This work has directly impacted the inclusiveness of numerous SIGCHI conferences and led to the creation of an Adjunct Chair for Accessibility on the SIGCHI Executive Committee, institutionalizing accessibility as an important facet of SIGCHI activities.

This article was excerpted and adapted from SIGCHI Awards 2022.