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.

DIS19 – Best Paper Award Honorable Mention!

More details coming soon. Until then, you can download a pre-print of the paper below:

Storer, K. & Branham, S.M. “That’s the Way Sighted People Do It: What Blind Parents Can Teach Technology Designers About Co-Reading with Children.” In Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Designing Interactive Systems (DIS ’19), San Diego, CA, June 23-28, 2019. 10 pages. (acceptance rate: 25%) (Honorable Mention – top 2%) forthcoming

1st Place, UMBC Gritty Talk

I am proud of my MS Thesis student, Antony Rishin Mukkath Roy, for taking home First Place at UMBC’s “Gritty Talk” graduate student competition during GEARS 2019. He is presenting preliminary work at iConference 2018, in a poster titled “Beyond being human: The (in)accessibility consequences of modeling VAPAs after human-human conversation.”

(photo of Antony Rishin standing in front of his slides)

$175K NSF CRII Grant to Study Blind Parent-Child Co-Reading

I am thrilled to announce that NSF CRII program is supporting my new research program around disabled parents and early childhood literacy development. The official abstract for the project, titled “CRII: CHS: Making Universally Usable Technologies to Enhance Parent-Child Co-Reading and Early Literacy Skills at Home,” is now published on the NSF website. The $175,000, two-year grant will primarily go toward funding the studies of a PhD student and compensating research participants for their time and expertise. Read the full story for more details, and to learn what my talented colleague, Daniel Epstein, has in store under his new NSF CRII grant:)

DIS19 – Paper Accepted – mixed-visual-ability co-reading!

My outstanding PhD student, Kevin Storer, and I submitted our first paper together as advisor-advisee team this past January (squee!), and we’ve just been notified of its acceptance to DIS 2019🙂 The paper, titled “‘That’s the Way Sighted People Do It’: What Blind Parents Can Teach Technology Designers About Co-Reading with Children,” is the first HCI research to approach parent-child co-reading practices from the perspective of parents with disabilities. Stay tuned for the camera ready publication; until then, here’s our abstract:

Co-reading (when parents read aloud with their children) is an important literacy development activity for children. HCI has begun to explore how technology might support children in co-reading, but little empirical work examines how parents currently co-read, and no work examines how people with visual impairments (PWVI) co-read. PWVI’s perspectives offer unique insights into co-reading, as PWVI often read differently from their children, and (Braille) literacy holds particular cultural significance for PWVI. We observed discussions of co-reading practices in a blind parenting forum on Facebook, to establish a grounded understanding of how and why PWVI co-read. We found that PWVIs’ co-reading practices were highly diverse and affected by a variety of socio-technical concerns – and visual ability was less influential than other factors like ability to read Braille, presence of social supports, and children’s literacy. Our findings show that including blind parents in the design process offers key insights into co-reading, which help technologies in this space better meet the needs of both blind and sighted parents and children.

our forthcoming DIS 2019 paper