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.