Tenure!

It is the greatest joy to share that I am now an Associate Professor of Informatics at UCI!

$1.2m NSF Award to Automate Android App Accessibility

This award marks an exciting collaboration between my lab and my colleagues Sam Malek and Iftekhar Ahmed in Software Engineering. We’ll be developing automated software engineering tools to enhance accessibility of Android applications, while also seeking to educate developers about the experiences of screen reader and switch users. See the official abstract below.

The ability to use software with ease is important for everyone, especially for approximately 15% of the world population with disabilities. Even the simplest operations, taken for granted by regular users, can be daunting tasks for disabled users. Unfortunately, in the current state of affairs, software inaccessibility is widespread. This can be attributed, at least partly, to the deficiencies in existing techniques and tools available to software engineers. Automated solutions for validating the accessibility of software are woefully insufficient. They either fail to detect many real accessibility issues or report too many superficial issues that are irrelevant in practice. Automated repair techniques, shown to be quite effective for improving various quality attributes of software (e.g., reliability, security), are scarce for accessibility. Existing interaction modalities are too rigid and cumbersome, seriously hindering the disabled users’ use and enjoyment of the profound advances in software technology.

This project lays the groundwork for innovative technologies that will enable end-users with vision and motor impairments to interact more effectively with software. Combining empirical data-driven research and tool building activities, the project will advance the state-of-the-art in several ways. First, the team of researchers will devise a use-case and assistive-service-driven accessibility issue detection technique capable of automatically identifying accessibility issues that are not detectable using the existing state-of-the-art techniques. Second, the researchers will develop an automated program repair solution that employs a combination of novel deep-learning and search-based strategies for fixing a variety of accessibility issues. Furthermore, the team will construct the means for automatically identifying use case macros for navigation optimization, allowing a disabled user to rapidly execute frequently accessed use cases through intuitive commands. Finally, utilizing a mixed-methods approach of user studies and interviews with both disabled users and software engineers, researchers will evaluate the efficacy of techniques developed in this project. Ultimately, the project will result in a suite of tools, which will be made available publicly, for helping developers with improving the accessibility of software systems that they construct.

Keynote – Tapia 2022

I will be sharing the story of my research and personal journey through academia at the Tapia 2022 conference in Washington DC this September. Come join us on-site, or watch the plenary talks streaming 🙂

Award – Named Among Popular Science’s “Brilliant 10”

In what can only be described as a surreal distinction, Popular Science has generously named me among their “Brilliant 10” early-career innovators in STEM for 2021. As described on their website:

Fresh eyes can change the world, and a world stressed by a pandemic, climate change, and inequity is one more ripe for change than we have ever experienced before. That’s why, after a five-year break, Popular Science is bringing back the Brilliant 10: an annual roster of early-career scientists and engineers developing ingenious approaches to problems across a range of disciplines. To find those innovators, we embarked on a nationwide search, vetting hundreds of researchers from institutions of all stripes and sizes. These thinkers represent our best hopes for navigating the unprecedented challenges of tomorrow—and today.

For more details, check out the spotlight:

$2.85m NSF Award to Broaden STEM Opportunities for Students with Disabilities

I am delighted to be a Co-PI (UCI share: $71,004) on three-year NSF grant “BPC-AE: AccessComputing Fourth Extension” (Award #2137312). PI Richard Ladner brings together collaborators from his home institution (Sheryl Burgstahler and Amy Ko), as well as a new “Leadership Corps” team (Raja Kushalnagar, Elaine Short, and myself) to expand the impact of their already massively successful AccessComputing program. As part of the Leadership Corps, I will work to strengthen industrial partnerships towards expanding the pipeline for students with disabilities into STEM careers. Can’t wait!

Google’s Material.io blog spotlights our co-designed inclusive image set

The products of an 18-month-long collaboration between my lab and Google designers and researchers is finally seeing the light of day! With a forthcoming ASSETS research article, and now a blog post on Material Design, we are delighted to share our co-developed inclusive design imagery. What sets this collection apart is that it depicts (often excluded) people with disabilities and other marginalized identities, and all images come with carefully crafted alt text / image descriptions. So, they are actually accessible to people with various disabilities.

We are excited, also, to share that these images will not only be used internally by Google designers to imagine more inclusive technologies. They will also be shipped on all new Google Chromebooks as accessible, inclusive avatar options at system setup.

Many thanks are owed to my advisee, PhD candidate Emory Edwards, for leading the team here at UCI. Thanks are also owed to Emily Blank and Michael Gilbert, our collaborators at Google. And, of course, we are deeply thankful to the many people with disabilities who shared their feedback to refine these images and craft alt text.

~$11m Jacobs CERES Award to Study EdTech for Children with Disabilities

PIs Candice Odgers and Gillian Hayes were kind enough to bring me along as one of two Co-Investigators (the other being Stephen Schueller) at UCI in this thrilling new investment from the Jacobs Foundation. The ~$11,000,000, five-year grant establishes CERES, a global project for Connecting the EdTech Research Ecosystem. The generous gift will enable my lab to develop educational technologies that include the needs of children with disabilities from the earliest stages of design. For more about this project, see articles in the LATimes and UCI.