IdeaGen: Inclusive Design

Dr. Kat Steele and lab alumni, Dr. Heather Feldner, were on the The Accessible Technologies & Inclusive Design Panel at the IdeaGen Global Innovation Summit hosted by Micrsofot on June 7, 2019. Scott Saponas served as the moderator, asking tough questions about how to encourage and expand inclusive design. A large portion of the summit celebrated the increasing inclusion of women in tech and entrepreneurial fields, while also highlighting the remaining barriers and challenges. We hope our panel also sparked reflection on ability as an important dimension of diversity that has important implications for the design and engineering of inclusive products, environments, and experiences.

Kat Steele with microphone seated next to Jacob Wobbrock and Oscar Murillo on the panel.

The panel also included Dr. Jacob Wobbrock from UW and Oscar Murillo from Microsoft. This was another reminder of the powerhouse of accessibility researchers at UW and in the Seattle-area. An artist was capturing the summit through illustration – the whole day (it looked amazing and exhausting):

A white poster board covered with sketches of the speakers, quotes, and notes from IdeaGen. The bottom left corner includes sketches of the panel.

One of the challenging questions Scott asked was our favorite examples of successful inclusive design. I still find it disappointing that this is a challenging question. We have our classic examples – curb cuts, closed captioning, power toothbrushes, Oxo products – that have made life easier for many, but were originally conceptualized through the inclusion of individuals with diverse abilities.

There should be many more examples of success. This should be an easy question where we can quickly call to mind all of the outstanding examples in the world that celebrate the inclusion of individuals with diverse abilities in the design process and make our daily life more inclusive.

What are your favorite examples of inclusive design?

What technologies make you excited for a more inclusive world?

You can learn more, find resources, and join the community through AccessEngineering.

Kat Steele speaking on panel with microphone and a pink shirt. Quote reads: "Disability should be celebrated as a part of diversity and a multifaceted community."

The fancy graphic from IdeaGen for serving on the panel.

New Article On Accessible Making: Designing A Makerspace For Accessibility

Kat Steele, Maya Cakmak, and Brianna Blaser co-authored an article discussing a three-step process to make a university-based makerspace more accessible and welcoming to individuals with disabilities.

Makerspaces provide the general community with a space to brainstorm, prototype, and create. Considering this, it is especially important to create a welcoming environment for individuals with diverse abilities, including individuals with disabilities.

To read the article in full, CLICK HERE.Students participate in a prototyping challenge in our makerspace exploration.



AccessEngineering featured on UW College of Engineering’s website

Thanks to AccessEngineering and other DO-IT programs, I don’t feel like I’m pursuing my education alone, or that I have to figure out how to overcome obstacles that others don’t have to by myself.

AccessEngineering, an interdisciplinary universal design program co-led by Dr. Kat Steele at the University of Washington, was featured on the College of Engineering’s news webpage.

Since it’s launch in 2014, AccessEngineering has sought to champion the development of a diverse, well-prepared workforce of engineering graduates and university faculty. One of the key ways that this program seeks to promote this agenda is by increasing general participation of individuals with disabilities in engineering. AccessEngineering also aims to promote their core goals by improving engineering education. The primary means by which this group seeks to enrich the curriculum is by integrating disability-related and universal design content into engineering courses.

Dr. Kat Steele coordinates AccessEngineering at the UW with Dr. Maya Cakmak, an assistant professor in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering, and Dr. Sheryl Burgstahler, director of UW Access Technology and the DO-IT Center.

To read about AccessEngineering program as posted on College of Engineering website, follow this LINK, or visit the program’s website.

An introduction to HuskyADAPT (Accessible Design and Play Technology)

A team of volunteer students work together to solder an adaptive switch onto a toy in time for the holidays.About HuskyADAPT: HuskyADAPT (Accessible Design and Play Technology) is a new collaboration between the UW Departments of Bioengineering, Mechanical Engineering, the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering, and the Division of Physical Therapy.

The Problem: Play is important for all age groups – for socialization, development, learning, and community engagement. In the Pacific Northwest, there are over 1.5 million people with disabilities- people who face a lack of access to environments and experiences that are inclusively designed to enable meaningful engagement in life and play.

Our Goal: We aim to create the first adaptive toy lending library in our state and in the region, including on-line infrastructure for sharing open-source designs, integrating outreach events to encourage underrepresented groups in STEM, and expanding access to inclusive play technology. Because Play is for Everyone!

To learn more, visit our website, facebook page, or follow this link for HuskyADAPT visuals (PDF).

Upcoming Webinar – Making Engineering Welcoming and Accessible for Students with Disabilities

Upcoming Webinar – Making Engineering Welcoming and Accessible for Students with Disabilities

Making Engineering Welcoming and Accessible for Students with Disabilities

Check out this upcoming webinar featuring some of our AccessEngineering team!

Date and Time
Wednesday, January 18, 2017
Complimentary 1-hour session! 1-2 pm ET, 12-1 pm CT, 11 am-12 pm MT, 10-11 am PTSponsored by NAPE, STEM Equity Pipeline, and the National Science Foundation


This webinar focuses on strategies for making engineering welcoming and accessible for students with disabilities. The University of Washington presenters run the AccessEngineering program, a nationwide program that works to increase the participation of people with disabilities in engineering academic programs and careers and improve engineering with their expertise. Project staffs engage faculty and students nationwide in efforts to (1) better serve a diverse student body, including students with a broad range of disabilities, in engineering courses and programs, and (2) integrate relevant accessibility-related and universal design content into engineering courses.

Intended Audience Community college, high school and university faculty, counselors, CTE and STEM staff

Objectives Participants will

  1. Gain an understanding of AccessEngineering and strategies to better serve a diverse student body.
  2. Learn methods to integrate disability-related and universal design content into engineering courses.
  3. Become familiar with strategies to make engineering labs and maker spaces accessible.


Register for this 1-hour complimentary webinar on Wednesday, January 18, 2017. Once you register for the complimentary event, information and instructions about accessing the event will be sent to your email address