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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 focus on two primary domains for access technologies: Access to the world (first half of the class) and Access to computers (second half of class). 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:

Introductory Video

Class Times

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

Class Time: Monday and Wednesday 6:30-7:50PM (PDT)

Mailing Lists

Staff mailing list: Mail

Class mailing list: Mailman

Course Staff


Jen Mankoff Jennifer Mankoff (she/her)
Office Hours: Thursday 12:30- 1:30PM (PDT)


Venkatesh Potluri Venkatesh Potluri (he/him)
Office hours: Tuesday 12:00-1:00PM (PDT) and Sunday 1:00-2:00PM (PDT)

(More information on Pronouns)

Should I take this class?

Yes! Everyone planning a career in interactive technology should understand access technology. Not only is it cutting edge and exciting, accessibility is a human rights issue and it is the law. Students of interactive technology 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 teach you

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 that you have not been exposed to before. You will be expected (with minimal to no specific instruction) to program in Python, Java (Android), work with HTML (and possibly CSS/Javascript).

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. To support this, readings and videos will be expected to be viewed/read ahead of class, while class time will be used as much as possible for activities, discussion, review, and homework.


All schedule sessions for this course are scheduled to run synchronously at your scheduled class time via Zoom. These Zoom class sessions will be recorded. The recording will capture the presenter’s audio, video and computer screen. Student audio and video will be recorded if they share their computer audio and video during the recorded session. The recordings will only be accessible to students enrolled in the course to review materials. These recordings will not be shared with or accessible to the public.

The University and Zoom have FERPA-compliant agreements in place to protect the security and privacy of UW Zoom accounts. Students who do not wish to be recorded should:


Lectures are designed to introduce new material throughout the quarter, motivate key theories and concepts, as well as practice.

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 surveys, as well as discussion and review. You will be graded on general participation in lecture 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.

Lecture Readings

Preparation outside of class and participation in class are both very important and will improve your class experience. The pre-lecture readings and activities are designed to support your studying and learning, particularly as we discuss both theoretical and practical aspects of interface Programming. Stay on top of the course materials, bring your questions to class and seek help if there are problems.

Remote Lecture Guidelines and Expectations

Students are expected to adhere to the below expectations for remote lectures. These guidelines are intended to help lecture go more smoothly, facilitate questions and group activities, and foster a sense of community within the class.


Please ensure that your material is 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.


This is a challenging, four credit class, meaning you should expect 8 hours of homework outside of class a week. We hope to make the workload as predictable as possible.

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. Some specific things we will do to try to make the class a welcoming environment:


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.

Grading Approach

We’ll be using approval grading in this class. That means that I will provide a rubric for each assignment, plus a rubric for learning goals for the entire quarter. You’ll fill both out. If you do the things they say, you get the grade.

Rubrics verification will be lightweight verification in class by random classmate, with occasional verification by myself and the TA.

One of the rubrics items for the class will have to do with time management. Turning in homework late will impact your score on that rubric. Part of time management is knowing when something should give. Thus, the time management rubric will include up to 4 penalty-free late days.

Grading Breakdown (tentative)

Grades will be assigned approximately as follows:

EPA (Effort, participation and altruism)

You can earn “points” for each of the following:

EPA scores are kept internal to the staff (i.e. not disclosed to students).

Sharing and group projects

Working together is encouraged, as long as you in the end implement your own code, and make sure to document any information you get from other students in comments at the top of the relevant file. You will work on one of your projects in pairs.