Personal Spotlights

Richard Ladner’s journey to accessibility research

“My parents were deaf and teachers of the deaf in California. My experiences with them shaped my interest in accessible technology. I learned about the power of technology when they got their first TTY that enabled them to communicate from their home to anywhere in the country. The TTY was a transformative technology for the deaf  community.  Later it was the video phone that allowed deaf people to communicate from a distance with each other in sign language.”

– Dr. Richard Ladner, Professor Emeritus of Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering; AccessComputing Principal Investigator

Richard went on to develop new technologies when he saw gaps in access, including a network for deaf blind people to communicate (pre-internet), better tactile graphics, and an accessible programming language (along with founding AccessComputing).

Jennifer Mankoff’s journey to empowerment

“One day in 1996, I found myself unable to open a door. A stranger saw the automated door button fail me and muttered angrily about the importance of people with disabilities having equal access. This became the moment that I first claimed my disability identity, as a graduate student dealing with a multi-year chronic condition. I am now a full professor, having changed institutions three times since my graduate student days, and acquired a second major chronic illness in 2006. While I am open about my diagnosis and journey, my reasons for claiming the disability identity have been driven not by my personal experience of illness, but rather by barriers in access. Illness alone represents an ongoing negotiation with self and physicians, a journey to both acceptance and healing. A disability identity, on the other hand, represents a reason to claim the right of access, a reaction to moments such as not being able to open a door.”

Jennifer Mankoff is the Richard E. Ladner Professor in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering

Jennifer has been working in accessibility since she was a graduate student, and has learned about disability studies and advocacy through her education by and work with fellow disability activists. Her research is focused on giving people with disabilities the voice, tools and agency to advocate for themselves.