Picture of a 3D printed arm with backscatter sensing technology attached to it.

The Future of Access Technologies

Sieg 322, M/W 9-10:20

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). Students will start the course by learning some basic physical computing capabilities so that they have the tools to build novel access technologies. We will focus on creating AT using sensors and actuators that can be controlled/sensed with a mobile device. The largest project in the class will be an open ended opportunity to explore access technology in more depth. 

Class will meet 9-10:20 M/W

Class Syllabus

Private Class Canvas Website

Tentative Schedule

Week 1 (9/25 ONLY): Introduction

Week 2 (10/2 ONLY): Introduction

Week 3  (10/7; 10/9): 3D Printing & Laser Cutting

Week 4 (10/14; 10/16): Physical Computing

In class: Connect simple LED circuit to a phone

Pair Project: Build a Better Button (Demo 10/30; webpage due 11/1)

Week 5 (10/21; 10/23): Finishing Arduino; Disability Studies

  • Disability Studies reading due: Pick ONE only to read. Hopefully among us we will cover a range of them. We’ll compare and contrast.
  • Open work time on Arduino projects

Week 6 (10/28; 10/30): Disability Studies; Input [Tentative]

  • Discussion of Arduino Projects
  • Starting on Input
    • Characterizing the performance of input devices (‘Design space of input devices’)
    • Digital techniques for adapting to user input capabilities (e.g. voice control, eye gaze)
    • Novel interaction techniques (e.g. mobile phone interaction, at the time)
    • Passive sensing and other real world input challenges
  • Reading 1: Slide Rule
  • Reading 2: The Design Space of Input Devices

Week 7 (11/4; 11/6): Output

Week 8 (11/13 ONLY): Applications

Week 9 (11/18; 11/20): The Web

Learn about “The Web,” how access technologies interact with the Web, and how to make accessible web pages.

WebAim.org — WebAIM has long been a leader in providing information and tutorials on making the Web accessible. A great source where you can read about accessibility issues, making content accessible, etc. Run it on your website or web page and look at the results before class.

Reading 1: Google Video on Practical Web Accessibility — this video provides a great overview of the Web and how to make web content accessible. Highly recommended as a supplement to what we will cover in class.

Optional Reading: If you want to supplement the reading with written guidance, check out WebAim.org Introduction to Web Accessibility, specifically the section titled ‘Principles of Accessible Design’ (which has links to how to properly write alt text; appropriate document structure, and so on).

Reading 2: What’s the problem?

Discussion: How can we make the web accessible when individual authors don’t? Also how can we improve web authoring?

Assignment: Assess a Web Page. In class, we will also make it more accessible. Please come prepared on 11/18.

Week 10 (11/25; 11/27):  Screen Readers

  • Building screen reader (NVDA, … )
  • Building accessible app (work with screen reader)
  • Paradigms for Nonvisual Input
  • Advanced Issues:
    • Optical Character Recognition
    • Image Labeling
    • Image description
    • Audio Description for Video
  • Test each others’ accessible pages
  • Mid-project Reports (Requirements TBD)

Week 10 (12/2; 12/4):  Other Computer Accessibility Challenges

  • Low Bandwidth Input
  • Reading Assistance
  • Mousing Assistance
  • Macros
  • Expert Tasks
  • Volunteer Activity due

Finals Week

Final Project Presentations will take place from 8:30-10:20 on Wednesday of finals week.

Final project presentations

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