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This is the Spring 2023 website.

Welcome to Class!

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.

Access technology (AT) has the potential to increase autonomy, and improve millions of people’s ability to live independently. This potential is currently under-realized because the expertise needed to create the right AT is in short supply and the custom nature of AT makes it difficult to deliver inexpensively. Yet computers’ flexibility and exponentially increasing power have revolutionized and democratized access technologies. In addition, by studying access technology, we can gain valuable insights into the future of all user interface technology.

In this course we will explore the role of accessibility in document creation; UX; advanced technologies such as 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.

For quick links to key things, check out the navigation bar above and the table of contents here:

Class Times

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

Class Time: Monday/Wednesday 10:00-11:20PM (PDT) Class Location: MGH 248

Mailing Lists

Staff mailing list: Mail

Class mailing list: Ed

Course Staff


Jen Mankoff Jennifer Mankoff (she/her)
Office Hours: TBD


Venkatesh Potluri Venkatesh Potluri (he/him)
Office hours: TBD

(More information on Pronouns)

Should I take this class?

Yes! Not only is accessibility a rewarding research topic with a lot of value for applying cutting edge computer science, 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.

This class will explore

Taking a class is a big commitment, and you will work hard in this class. So we want to help you make sure this is the right class for you. Below is some information about prerequisites and expectations.

Prereqs 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.

Course Structure

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.


Please ensure that assignments you hand in are accessible to the best of your capabilities. We will offer guidance on this in class, but given that the process of making content accessible heavily depends on the tools you use to author the content, it is practically impossible for us to offer exhaustive guidance. Here are a few resources to get started, but please reach out to us when in doubt.

Class Coordination

We want you to succeed in this class, and an important way that you do that is by asking questions and discussing course issues with your peers and teaching staff. Some ways to do that include:

Class Expectations

The class is a shared learning environment and it is important it is a welcoming environment for everyone, from all backgrounds. As instructors, we know that students in this class may need materials to be accessible by screen reader, or may need extra time on exams. You may observe religious holidays that overlap class times, or have work, childcare or appointments that have to be prioritized at specific times. As students we also ask you to remember that each person brings different priorities and experiences to class. We should all strive to treat everyone in the class with respect and understanding.

The Allen School seeks to create a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable environment for our community and our field (see the Allen School’s Inclusiveness Statement). Specific things we will do to promote welcoming class environment include:


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, you may be expected 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. Please contact the instructor for instructions each week you are remote). For those cases, 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. Students who connect by Zoom but do not wish to be recorded should:


While grading is a necessary part of what we do at UW, I want to focus this class on learning. The following policies are meant to encourage that. There will not be quizzes, or a midterm or final exam this quarter. Instead, your knowledge will be assessed via a combination of competency based grading and project work.

Grading Breakdown (tentative)

Grades will be assigned approximately as follows:

Grading Approach

This is a draft breakdown for the class and may be revised.

35%: Final Project

The final project will be a programming project of your choice, and will represent a large percentage of the grade in the class.

35%: Competency in key skills.

Course staff will be looking for and providing feedback on your competency with basic knowledge such as presenting accessibly and turning in accessible documents. 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. Some are assessed less frequently. For those, you have the opportunity to request a regrade if you feel you’ve improved on them.

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 skills: (1) Accessible Media and Documents (includes 5 possible competencies); (2) Accessibility Compliance (includes 4 possible competencies); and (3) Disability Awareness and Justice (includes 3 possible competencies). Accessible videos is a “bonus” meaning it can add a competency, but won’t count against you if you don’t do it.

Your grade is based on the number of skills you achieve competence, and excellence in for each category. For example, if you achieve excellence in 4/5 skills and are above competence in all skills in the Accessible Media and Documents category, you would receive a 4.0 for that category. Your grade will be calculated separately for each category and then averaged.

The correspondance between competencies and grades in each categories is shown in the table below. The columns in this table show the Max number of skills that can be below competence to get a certain grade (specifically, if even 1 skill in a category is below competence, the highest possible grade is 3.2 for all skill groups). Next is the minimum number of skills that must be competent to get a certain grade (for example, you have to be competent in at least 4 skills to get a 3.4 in accessible media and documents; at least 3 in the case of accessibility compliance; and at least 2 in the case of disability justice); and the minimum number of skills that must be excellent to get a certain grade.

Outcome Category Score   4 (A) 3.8 (A-) 3.4 (B+) 3.2 (B) 2.8 (B-) 1.1 (D) 0 (E)
Media/Docs !Comp <=       1 2 3 4
(All = 5 ) Excellent >= 4/5 3/5 2/5 1/5      
Compliance !Comp <=       1 2 3 4
(All = 4) Excellent >= 4/4 3/4 2/4 1/4      
Awareness / !Comp <=       1 2   3
Justice (All=3) Excellent >= 3/3 2/3 1/3        
Bonus: Video Access                  

You can view your progress in each category on Canvas: Learning Mastery

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)

Regrade Policy

Reflecting on feedback is one of the most valuable ways you can learn from your mistakes, and we encourage you to do so. 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.

It is also possible for the graders to make mistakes. If that happens we certainly would like to correct the error. Please note the following:

Indigenous Land Acknowledgement

The University of Washington acknowledges the Coast Salish peoples of this land, the land which touches the shared waters of all tribes and bands within the Suquamish, Tulalip and Muckleshoot nations.