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.

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.

NIH cerebral palsy strategic plan – our comments

The National Institutes of Health recently released the “Strategic Plan for Cerebral Palsy Research” which outlines challenges and priorities to guide future research to improve the lives of people with cerebral palsy.

Our diverse research group enjoyed reading and discussing this plan, which will likely influence our future research goals and support. We’ve shared our group’s comments, organized and prepared by Dr. Heather Feldner, below:

“Our research group appreciated the committee’s focus on creating a centralized data source for CP, attention to the needs and perspectives of adults with CP, their childhood experiences, and their transition from pediatric to adult healthcare providers, and the call for greater caregiver support services and patient-reported outcomes. However, we also had concerns. First, the terminology is inconsistent and often inappropriate. “Cure”, “damage”, and the implication that people with CP cannot be “healthy” is not empowering language in supporting the lives, unique contributions, and perspectives of people with CP as diverse and valued individuals in our society. Further, while advocates of people with CP were included in this stakeholder group, there is a concerning lack of people who actually have a diagnosis of CP, when these should be the primary stakeholders setting a research agenda about their own lives and needs. Finally, given the uncertainty of government funding agencies like the NIH under the current administration’s budget proposal, and the speed of science of translating research from bench to bedside, it appears that too little priority has been placed on interventions or programs that could have an influence right now for the people living with CP in the US dealing with self-identified participation issues such as access to employment and education, as well as impairment-related needs such as pain management, access to technology, and functional mobility.

We are excited that NIH is engaged to set a national research agenda for cerebral palsy and we look forward to continuing to serve this community.

Logo of NINDS/NICHD Plan for cerebral palsy research

CL Bennett, K Cen, KM Steele, DK Rosner, (2016) “An intimate laboratory? Prostheses as a tool for experimenting with identity and normalcy.” CHI Human Factors in Computing Systems, ACM

Prostheses from the 15th century (medieval metal hand) to the 21st century (3D-printed enable hand).

Peer-review paper at CHI Human Factors in Computing Systems Annual Conference:

Prostheses are more than just a tool to enhance function – they strongly influence perceptions of identity and normalcy.

Prostheses from the 15th century (medieval metal hand) to the 21st century (3D-printed enable hand).Abstract: This paper is about the aspects of ability, selfhood, and normalcy embodied in people’s relationships with prostheses. Drawing on interviews with 14 individuals with upper-limb loss and diverse experiences with prostheses, we find people not only choose to use and not use prosthesis throughout their lives but also form close and complex relationships with them. The design of “assistive” technology often focuses on enhancing function; however, we found that prostheses played important roles in people’s development of identity and sense of normalcy. Even when a prosthesis failed functionally, such as was the case with 3D-printed prostheses created by an on-line open-source maker community (e-NABLE), we found people still praised the design and initiative because of the positive impacts on popular culture, identity, and community building. This work surfaces crucial questions about the role of design interventions in identity production, the promise of maker communities for accelerating innovation, and a broader definition of “assistive” technology.

View the video for more information on this work.

Optimizing Orthoses – Presentation & Workshop

Washington Object-Oriented Fabrication Club Logo

Our very own Hwan Choi will be giving a presentation on his PhD research at the Co-Motion MakerSpace at the University of Washington. Join us on Tuesday, January 26th 3:30pm-4:30pm to learn more about his research “Optimizing Orthoses”, and how to modify 3D scanned files in Meshmixer in order to make a mechanically driven device for yourself. This event is collaboration with UW’s WOOF3D club. See below for additional details.

Hwan Choi Presentation