CSE590W: Accessibility Research Seminar

Welcome to the Winter 2019 Accessibility seminar. here for basic course information and links to the webs for earlier quarters.

Time and Place

InstructorJennifer Mankoff


This reading group will focus on understanding research at the intersection of health and accessibility for people with disabilities. Our goal is to explore some of the tensions between the medical model that is still very common in healthcare, and the more user centered/social model approach that is common at venues such as ASSETS. Some of the sorts of questions we may explore include: What are the limitations of the social model and medical models in accessibility research? How can an accessibility perspective inform healthcare work? How and where does accessible technology fit into healthcare settings? Where does technology fit within the intersection of disability and illness?

To gain an overview of this research area, we will meet weekly to discuss one or more readings and to reflect on directions for future work.

Expectations. This seminar is for 1 credit hour. Students are expected to attend the weekly meetings and to spend 1-2 hours outside of class each week reading and responding to the readings to prepare for the group meeting. In addition, there will be an opportunity to attend HuskyAdapt presentations, by undergraduate students exploring questions like how the e-NABLE community produced devices are being used. Although not required, the hope is that the practical experience of seeing and critiquing these projects will inform our readings and thought about the intersection of accessibility and health.

Who can attend? Students at any level who are excited about reading peer-reviewed research papers and participating in academic research-oriented discussions. Graduate students should directly register for this course, undergraduates are welcome to apply reach out directly to Prof. Mankoff for guidance.

All students should make sure the try to run discussion in as accessible a fashion as possible. This Paper and Video are good guides for that.


Note that we have several optional alternative seminars this quarter which are meant to complement the seminar itself. Please attend at least one of these optional meetings, to make up for the fact that seminar will not be held on three weeks this quarter (one of the optional meetings overlaps seminar though). The optional events are from two sources:
  • Disability Studies Roundtables: Sponsored by the Simpson Center’s. This discussion will exploring the Fault Lines of Disability Studies crossdisciplinary research clusterand will demonstrate that disability studies can enhance work in every discipline and every corner of this university’s campus. As such, speakers will not only represent the humanities and social sciences, but UW professional schools, medicine, computer science, the performing arts, and so forth.
  • HuskyAdapt presentations: These are part of the HuskyAdapt VIP Design course. The students work with faculty and need experts to successfully navigate the design process and produce prototypes. The teams then presented their work at two different showcases. Listed below is the challenge each team was given, click on the corresponding team name to see how the students tackled their challenge!
Given the theme of the seminar, which will focus on the relationship of medical model and disability studies models to health and accessibility technologies, I think both sets of optional discussions present opportunities to think about the practical difficulties of bringing either or both model to bear in the realm of technology.
  • Jan 7, 2019 Optional: 2:30-3:30, MILL: McCarty Innovation & Learning Lab. HuskyAdapt course introductory lecture on disability studies and accessible design (Heather Feldner)
  • Jan 9, 2019 CANCELLED: Jen is traveling
  • Jan 16, 2019 Readings: Exploring the critiques of the social model of disability: the transformative possibility of Arendt’s notion of power; Rethinking disability: the social model of disability and chronic disease
  • Jan 23, 2019 Guest lecture: Yuhang Zhao. Title: Designing Technologies to Make Virtual Reality Accessible for People with Visual Impairments Abstract: Today, VR mainly relies on realistic visual feedback to provide an immersive experience that is only accessible to sighted people. Most VR applications are not accessible for people with visual impairments (including people who are blind and people with low vision), preventing them from benefiting from this important class of emerging technology. In this talk, I’ll describe my research collaborations with Microsoft, which focused on designing technologies to make VR accessible for people with visual impairments, as well as discussing design guidelines for accessible VR. I enhanced VR accessibility for blind users via haptic and audio feedback, while for low vision users with direct visual augmentations. I addressed VR accessibility from both the user and the developer’s perspectives: designing a post hoc plugin to modify existing VR applications in runtime; and providing a Unity toolkit that allows integrating low vision support tools during development. In my talk, I will discuss the experiences, challenges, and expectations that people with visual impairments have for VR, as well as the technologies I designed to increase VR accessibility. I will also reflect on general accessibility guidelines for VR.
  • Jan 25, 2019 DS Brown Bag, 12-1:30, Mary Gates Hall 024 (UW D Center): Mary Gates Hall 024 (the UW D Center)
    • 12:00-12:45pm, Cynthia Bennett will present on “Informing Technology Design Practice with Disability Scholarship and Activism”: Full details or on the disability studies talks website. Shorter summary: Cynthia Bennett is a Ph.D. candidate in the department of Human Centered Design and Engineering at the University of Washington. Her dissertation research aims to increase the participation of people with disabilities in technology design fields. Specifically, she foregrounds disabled people as designers and innovators and demonstrates that disability scholarship and activism meaningfully inform how we communicate and do design. Cynthia has also worked on several research projects on making existing technologies more accessible and on leveraging technologies to increase information access by people with disabilities. You can follow her on Twitter @clb5590 and read more from her website at www.bennettc.com. This talk will overview two projects which translate and apply concepts from disability studies to technology design research. The talk will end by offering empathy as a reciprocal process rather than an activity or achievement to push back on the common but often tacit assumptions that the people designing assistive technologies are necessarily different from the people using them.
    • 12:45-1:30pm, E.T. Russian will present on “Robots, Paper Cities, and Stage Plays: Disability, Deafness & Chronic Illness in Brian Selznick's Graphic Novels” E.T. RUSSIAN is a multi-sensory artist from the Pacific Northwest, author of The Ring of Fire Anthology, Co-Director of the documentary Third Antenna, and currently is in the traveling national exhibit Graphic Medicine: Ill-conceived and Well drawn, curated but Ellen Forney. E.T. has received support from the Art Matters foundation, Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, the Jack Straw Foundation, and the University of Washington Harlan Hahn Award. This talk will include a report back from the 2018 international Comics and Medicine conference, as well as a talk on the works of Brian Selznick. Brian Selznick is the illustrator and author of The Invention of Hugo Cabret, The Marvels and Wonderstruck. Rethinking Schools magazine recognized Selznick as being the only Caldecott Award-winning author to avoid common stereotypes in his characters with disabilities.
  • Jan 30, 2019 Class Canceled. Optional special seminar, 3-5pm in Communications Rm. 202.. Joint with Disability Studies roundtable on Disability Studies in the Curriculum (across disciplines). This round table will highlight innovative ways that faculty across UW have introduced a disability studies perspective into their discipline-specific courses to ensure that this important perspective becomes part of every students’ education. Please RSVP using the following link: https://goo.gl/forms/mzlUx9Ns8tE84CX92
  • Feb 4, 2019, Optional critique: 2:30pm: HuskyAdapt Mid Quarter Presentations (optional)
  • Feb 6, 2019 Readings: "But, I don't take steps": Examining the Inaccessibility of Fitness Trackers for Wheelchair Athletes and Activity Restriction Among Wheelchair Users
  • Feb 13, 2019 Let's split up the ASSETS proceedings from 2010 and talk about their contents. We filled out a survey. Results summarized in this slide deck.
  • Feb 20, 2019 Led by ?? (Jen is traveling)
  • Feb 27, 2019
  • Mar 6, 2019 Canceled (Jen is traveling)
  • Mar 7, 2019 Optional special seminar: 3-5 pm, Communications Room 202. Disability Studies Research Across Disciplines, This will will build upon Disability Studies in the Curriculum to highlight innovative ways that faculty have integrated a disability studies perspective in their research.
  • Mar 11, 2019 Optional critique: 2:30pm: HuskyAdapt Final Presentations

Notes on Potential topics for reading

Mental Illness in Academe Gold, Gerald, and Louise Duval 1994 Introduction. Working with Disability: An Anthropological Perspective. Gerald Gold and Louise Duval, guest eds. Special issue, Anthropology of Work Review 15(2- 3):1-2 Pinder, R. (1996). Sick-but-fit or fit-but-sick? Ambiguity and identity at the workplace. Exploring the divide, 135-156.