Assistive Technologies, Accessible Computing, and Computer Science Education: It Takes a Village to Build Inclusive Software
Access to digital information is a basic human right for People With Disabilities (PWD). In research, we focus on designing assistive technology tools to support PWD accessing digital information e.g. webpages and mobile applications. For software to be accessible, it must adhere to a set of accessibility guidelines. If software developers and designers neglect implementing the accessibility guidelines into their software, PWD may find the assistive technology tools obsolete. Hence, raising awareness among developers and designers on the topic of accessibility is vital to guarantee access for PWD.
In this talk, I will present my research on designing two assistive technology systems that empower PWD to pursue their learning endeavors. The first assistive technology system supports blind people in their reading and learning activities on slate-type devices. We designed an intelligent reading system with a dynamic speech-touch interaction model so that blind people can read in-place on touch screens. Evaluation studies showed preponderance to our system compared to other VoiceOver technologies. The second assistive technology system I am going to present aims to address communication challenges between deaf and hearing students in the absence of ASL (American Sign Language) interpreters. The system supports deaf students in their collaboration activities with hearing students on group assignments outside of the classroom. The system combines messaging, interjections, speech-to-text, and diarization technologies to facilitate communication and turn taking. We ran a user study to evaluate the usefulness of the system that allowed us to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the current design.
I will conclude the talk by describing my future research directions that include: 1) Employing machine learning and AI to improve assistive technologies; 2) Developing accessibility design and testing tools for software engineers that will be integrated into their development environment; and 3) Educating computer science students about accessibility at the undergraduate level.
Dr. Yasmine El-Glaly is a lecturer at the Software Engineering Department at Rochester Institute of Technology. She and her students create assistive technology systems to support people with disabilities and the elderly in their learning and communication activities using multimodal and embodied interaction. She also creates learning modules based on active learning methods to teach accessibility to computing students. El-Glaly received her PhD degree in Computer Science from Virginia Tech. Her research is published at top tier conferences and journals (ICSE, ACM ASSETS, ICMI, TEI, SIGCSE, SIGACCESS, TiiS). El-Glaly leads interdisciplinary projects that are funded by NSF, SIGCSE, and Access Computing. Her projects are featured in the media and by NSF Science. Her research interests include assistive technology, human-centered computing, software engineering, CS education, and mobile computing.