NSF grant helps IUPUI faculty explore how to eliminate barriers to accessibility
October 3, 2019
Erin Brady (above), Ph.D. and assistant professor of human-computer interaction at IUPUI’s Department of Human-Centered Computing, has received a grant to identify ways that socio-technical systems can promote collaborative efforts to solve accessibility problems in the workplace.
As principal investigator, Brady is working with co-principal investigator Davide Bolchini, Ph.D. and chair of the School of Informatics and Computing’s Department of Human-Centered Computing. Their project will bring together people with and without disabilities to brainstorm solutions to accessibility issues. “Building Mutual Expertise for Physical Accessibility in Workplaces” is funded by a 3-year $487,550 Cyber-Human Systems grant from the National Science Foundation.
“People with disabilities are experts in accessibility … through their daily experiences in inaccessible environments.”
Erin Brady, principal investigator
Accessibility issues can prevent people with disabilities from finding and maintaining employment and being fully included in the workplace. “Most of these accessibility problems are solvable,” Brady says.
“However, not all employers are aware of the accessibility problems that exist in their workplaces, and they may not know how to implement specific accommodations or cultural changes that would be useful for employees with disabilities.”
The project draws inspiration from collective access, a principle developed by Disability Justice activists to recognize the value of personalized approaches to accessibility, informed by people with disabilities themselves.
“People with disabilities are experts in accessibility,” Brady says.
“They develop knowledge of common accessibility problems, workarounds, and strategies through their daily experiences in inaccessible environments. This knowledge can be an invaluable resource to employers who want to make their workplaces more accessible, but don’t know where to start.”
Brady and Bolchini’s project will begin by identifying existing practices and attitudes of people with disabilities and employers around problem-solving for accessibility. Researchers will interview disabled employees and job-seekers, as well as co-workers and employers without disabilities.
“Most of these accessibility problems are solvable.”
The project will include a series of small collective access groups where people with disabilities and workplace stakeholders will collaborate on identifying and solving accessibility problems. Through these, researchers seek to identify strategies and technologies to improve how people with and without disabilities can communicate about accessibility and eliminate barriers to access in the workplace.
“This research will contribute to our understanding of how disability impacts experiences in workplaces,” Brady says, “and how technologies can be designed to improve these experiences through building mutual expertise.”
“This is a very exciting project,” says co-principal investigator Davide Bolchini.
“One of the novel perspectives this research brings is to investigate the design space of social technologies that will enable people with and without disabilities to share complementary—and often untapped—expertise.”
And, Bolchini notes, “This highly competitive NSF award is a recognition of the leadership of our Human-Computer Interaction faculty in the field of accessible computing research.”
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1909850. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.