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Why take this class?

What it is about?

Highly recommend this course to be [mandatory in CS]… I will keep the lessons learned and try to apply them in my career wherever applicable. – 2023 student.

Even though I have a lot of experience with implementing accessibility in code and pushing for more accessible designs at work, I have learned a lot from this course [that I plan to take back into my workplace] – 2023 student

How can computing enable new solutions to accessibility, including both access to the world and access to computers? Similarly, how can a disability studies perspective guide us in developing empowering and relevant solutions to accessibility problems? This course explores both of those questions through a combination of discussions, reading, and building. In addition, by studying access technology, we can gain valuable insights into the future of all user interface technology.

Access technology (AT) has the potential to increase autonomy, and improve millions of people’s ability to live independently. In addition, accessibility is a human rights issue and it is the law. If you’re creating interactive technologies, you should know how to build regular interfaces that are accessible as well as understanding the value of innovating new approaches to accessibility. Disability touches almost everyone either directly or indirectly at some point in life, temporarily or permanently. Let’s create a future we will also want to and be able to be part of.

In this course we will focus on a combination of practical skills such as how to assess accessibility of documents, websites and apps and how to do disability based UX; advanced skills such as how to address accessibility in visualization, AR/VR and AI/ML; and forward looking topics such as intersectional concerns, accessible healthcare, and accessibility in disaster response. The largest project in the class will be an open ended opportunity to explore access technology in more depth. We will also cover disability justice and advocacy.

What are the Prerequisites and Expectations?

The only requirement for this class is that you are comfortable programming and picking up new languages and tools that you have not been exposed to before. You will have some control over this, however, basic web skills are likely to be useful. The primary programming project in this class is one you design yourself.

In addition, please familiarize yourself with the course academic conduct policy. We will grade on the assumption that you have read and understood it, and there will be penalties if you do not follow these policies. These will be determined on a case by case basis, but at a minimum:

What is the Teaching Philosophy and Approach?

Many of the goals in this class center around learning by doing. This means that hands on time trying out everything from implementation to evaluation is critical to learning. Active learning has been shown to increase student performance in STEM subjects.

Thus, class time will be used as much as possible for in class exercises and discussion for understanding using a variety of technologies. We also highly encourage questions in lecture. Often many students share the same question and those questions can help the instructor gauge student understanding.

Preparation outside of class and participation in class are both very important and will improve your class experience. Preparation may include online discussion, pre-class readings and videos, and post-lecture reflections in addition to homework. Participation in class will include discussion, question asking, and active engagement in learning exercises.


When and Where is the Class Held?

See Canvas for all zoom meeting links for classes and office hours.

How do I reach the Instructors?

Jen Mankoff Jennifer Mankoff (she/her) Instructor
Venkatesh Potluri Venkatesh Potluri (he/him) TA
Jesse Martinez Jesse Martinez (he/him) TA
Dhruv Khanna Dhruv Khanna (he/him) Course Assistant

Office Hours

Day Time Who Where
Tuesdays 3-4pm Jen Mankoff Canvas
Wednesdays 11:30-12pm Jen Mankoff 211 Gates
Mondays 10:30-11:30AM Venkatesh Potluri in-person location Bill and Melinda Gates Center 121. zoom link
Fridays 1:30-2:30pm Jesse Martinez Gates 131
Asynchronous   Any Post to discussion board*
By Appointment   Any Post to discussion board

*You can discuss matters with us privately on the discussion board. This notifies the whole course staff at once and is usually faster than email.

Staff mailing list: Mail

How do I reach other students in the class?

We have a class discussion board, where you can make public posts that benefit the whole class, and are answered more quickly because your fellow students can help the course staff by responding also.

Another great way to meet students is to come to class in person!

Is this class Accessible and Inclusive?

We hope so! The class is a shared learning environment and it is important to us to make it a welcoming environment for everyone, from all backgrounds. We strive to treat everyone in the class with respect and understanding.

How does this class support Accessibility?

We know that students in this class may need materials to be accessible by screen reader, or may need extra time on exams. We have structured the class to be as accessible as possible to all students by default.

If you have a temporary health condition or permanent disability (either mental health, learning, or physical health related) that impacts your academic experience, please let us know how we can accommodate you.

You are NOT obligated to disclose any of these issues with the instructor, only specify if there’s any accommodations required. For more on accessibility in this class and how we accommodate you (and each other), please see our Accessibility Policy

What about health and wellness beyond accessibility accommodations?

It is very important to us that you take care of your mental health throughout the course. We have built flexibility into course assessments with the goal of reducing stress. However we know that sometimes that is not enough. Everyone on the course staff is available to chat, and you can always attend office hours for a non-academic conversation if necessary. Beyond the course staff, the University of Washington provides the following resources for mental health concerns. Your anonymity and privacy are protected.

How do you accommodate religious holidays?

You may observe religious holidays that overlap class times. We ask that you complete the class attendance requirements for remote students in this case. If you have additional concerns that this policy does not meet, please contact the instructors. In addition, here is some potentially helpful information about UW policy: Religious Accommodations Policy. Accommodation can be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form on UW’s site.

What should I do if something happens that makes me feel unsafe or excluded?

If you have been subject to sexual harassment, you feel you have been discriminated against, our you have been made to feel uncomfortable in any way, please tell us. You might choose to speak with your instructor, teaching assistant, the chair of the department, depending on the circumstances.

Should you feel uncomfortable bringing up an issue with a staff member directly, , there are a number of Community Feedback Mechanisms and Resources including the Anonymous Feedback form, but understand we can not respond to you directly if you use the latter. Responses, if possible, will be broadcast to the class as a whole or systematic changes to the class when necessary.

You can also file a complaint with the UW Ombudsman’s Office for Sexual Harassment. Their office is located at 339 HUB, (206)543-6028. There is a second office, the University Complaint Investigation and Resolution Office, who also investigate complaints. The UCIRO is located at 22 Gerberding Hall.

If something about the course materials makes you feel excluded, please let us know. We also review them ourselves with inclusion in mind each time we prepare to teach.

We have tried to make the course inclusive of people who have work, childcare or appointments that have to be prioritized at specific times. However if we can do something to improve this further, or you have needs we haven’t thought of, please tell us.

Expectations and Grading

What are the participation requirements for this class?

This is an in person class. As much as possible, we ask that you attend in person. That said, we know that many individual concerns may make this a barrier. We will do our best to support remote participation when there is a need for this due to a family obligation, disability, or other concern.

If you participate remotely, or miss a class, you may be asked to engage in additional work before, after, or during lecture to ensure that you have the most similar experience possible to students who are in person.

Will lectures be recorded?

Class sessions will be recorded when possible (guest lecturers may refuse this). Recordings will only be accessible to students enrolled in the course to review materials.

The University and Zoom have FERPA-compliant agreements in place to protect the security and privacy of UW Zoom accounts.

What if I don’t want to be recorded?

Students who connect by Zoom but do not wish to be recorded should:

What is the classes Grading Philosophy?

While grading is a necessary part of what we do at UW, I want to focus this class on learning; and to ensure that my approach to assessment is inclusive and focuses on a justice based approach. There has been a lot of innovation in assessment in recent years, driven partly by COVID-19. We have tried to learn from this in our grading.

There will not be quizzes, or a midterm or final exam. Instead, your knowledge will be assessed Competency based grading in alignment with the disability justice focus in this course.

What is “Competency Based Grading”?

Competency based grading separates out how you learn a skill from whether you know it. Many of these competencies are assessed repeatedly. I don’t care if you get them wrong at first, as long as you eventually learn them. If you learn them all, and participate fully in the class, you will get an A.

In the image below, you can see how traditional grading assigns a score for each assignment and adds them together. If you score badly on your first assignment, that negatively affects your grade, even if you demonstrate that you’ve learned everything you needed to know in it during later assignments. In contrast competency-based grading is structured around learning goals. All of the different things you do that demonstrate progress on those learning goals are grouped together to help assign a score on that learning goal.

Explanation of competency-based grading. In a competency system teaching learning and grading are centered around learning outcomes. This changes how we plan assess and grade. It shifts us toward learning and away from completion/compliance. From the NYC Department of Education Competency Collaborative

Nice philosophy and all… what does that mean for me?

The competencies needed for this course are listed on the assignments page, and can all be found in canvas as well. There are three categories of Competency, each with four skills you need to learn: (1) Accessible Media and Documents (2) Accessibility Compliance and (3) Disability Awareness and Justice.

Your highest score on each skill in any assignment determines your grade on that skill. In addition, you may request regrades. When you are graded on a skill, we rate your skill as “no evidence” “below competent” “basic knowledge” or “excellent”. Various combinations of “basic” “excellent” and “below competent” result in other grades.

The table below shows how scores will be converted to a grade. Note that if even 1 skill in a competency category is below competence (!Comp), the highest possible grade is 75% in that competency category. Assuming that you are at least competent in all skills, your grade is based on how many skills are excellent versus competent. You have to be excellent in all 4 skills to get to 100; at least 3 to get to 95%; and at least 2 to get to 85%. Your final score on your competencies is an average of your competence in each category.

Learning Mastery

Outcome Category Score   100% 95% 85% 75% 60% 30% 0%
Media/Docs !Comp <= 0 0 1 2 3 4 5
(All = 5) Excellent >= 4/5 3/5 2/5 1/5 0/5 0/5 0/5
Compliance !Comp <= 0 0 1 2 3 4 5
(All = 5) Excellent >= 4/5 3/5 2/5 1/5 0/5 0/5 0/5
Justice !Comp <= 0 0 1 2 3 4 5
(All = 5) Excellent >= 4/5 3/5 2/5 1/5 0/5 0/5 0/5

You can view your progress on each competency in Canvas (Excellent is called “Mastery” there). Open up the category to see individual competencies; and click on the competency to see details on whether you are “competent” or “excellent”.

What else will I be graded on?

Grades will be assigned in three categories: Assignment completion, effort, and competencies.

80%: Competencies

Competencies are 80% of your grade in the class. See the previous question for details on how a grade is calculated from your competencies.

10%: Assignment Completion

Assignment completion is 10% of your grade. This is listed as the “participation” competency for each assignment in canvas. The weight of each assignment is simply the number of weeks long it is, so a longer assignment would contribute more to your assignment completion grade than a shorter one.

10%: Effort

Your effort grade will reflect your participation in the class across multiple dimensions such as whether you participated in discussions and exercises in class (self reported) and whether you participated in discussions outside of class (based on your submissions).

Does the class have a regrading policy?

Reflecting on feedback is one of the most valuable ways you can learn from your mistakes, and we encourage you to do so. It is also possible for the graders to make mistakes. If that happens we certainly would like to correct the error.

However, please note the following:

If you have a question about a grade you received or if you feel the grade you received is incorrect, please email an instructor for an appointment to discuss the assignment and your grade in detail.