Video – Innovating the Future of Work with Blind People

Last April, I was delighted to engage in conversation about my lab’s research as part of the HCI and the Future of Work and Wellbeing dialogue series, hosted virtually at Wellesley College. Alongside my PhD students, Ali Abdolrahmani, Kevin Storer, and Emory Edwards, we shared what we have learned about the future of work based on the experiences of people who are blind or low vision. The title, abstract, and video recording of our lively dialogue can be found below.

Title: Innovating the Future of Work with Blind People

Abstract: Time and again, when technologists have imagined the future of work, they have done so without consideration of people who are blind. Look no further than the display you are currently reading—the first displays and touchscreens appeared in the 1960s and 70s, while the first screen reader to make them accessible wasn’t invented until 1986. This is not atypical; most technologies are indeed “retrofit” for accessibility, often years and decades after their first introduction. Given this, how exactly do blind people work in the 21st century? What technical barriers do they face, and to what extent are barriers technical as opposed to sociocultural? How do we break the innovate-retrofit cycle, and what role can HCI scholars and practitioners play? For the past 7 years, my research has explored these questions with blind students and collaborators, through qualitative inquiry and participatory design–an approach, I argue, that not only results in accessible technologies from the start, but that also can lead to radical innovation that improves work for all. I look forward to engaging these ideas in dialogue with you.