Designing for Accessible Collaborative Content Creation in Ability-Diverse Teams

Maitraye Das, Northwestern University
Host: Johns Hopkins Department of Computer Science

Widely used technologies that support remote collaboration and content production (e.g., Microsoft Office, Google Docs, Zoom) contribute to ongoing issues of inequity for people with disabilities. These tools do not always allow for the same level of usability and efficiency for disabled people as their able-bodied peers experience. As workplaces and educational institutes continue to adopt more technology-driven, hybrid models during the pandemic, existing equity gaps are likely to increase without a holistic understanding of accessibility in content production and new tools and techniques to support accessible collaboration. My research addresses this challenge by understanding, designing, and building accessible collaborative content production systems for ability-diverse teams, i.e., teams involving people with and without disabilities. In this talk, I will overview two main directions I am pursuing to enhance collaboration among blind and sighted people: collaborative writing and collaborative making.

First, drawing upon my interviews and observations with blind academics and professionals, I will explain the technological, social, and organizational factors that shape accessibility in collaborative writing. Then I will demonstrate a variety of auditory techniques and systems I developed to represent complex collaboration information in a shared document (e.g., comments, tracked changes, and real-time edits) and how these new techniques support blind writers in maintaining collaboration awareness and coordinating joint activities in asynchronous and synchronous settings.

Next, I will focus on my long-term ethnographic research within a community weaving studio where blind fiber artists work together with sighted instructors to produce hand-woven fabrics. I will share two examples of how I integrate technological augmentations in this traditional form of making to support creative work of blind weavers. These include designing an audio-enhanced physical loom and an accessible tool for generating fabric patterns. I will conclude by discussing my future research plans on improving accessibility in collaboration, creativity, and learning.

Speaker Biography

Maitraye Das is a PhD candidate in Technology and Social Behavior, a joint doctoral program in Computer Science and Communication at Northwestern University. Her research sits at the intersection of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), Computer-Supported Cooperative Work, and Accessible Computing, with a particular focus on studying and designing for accessible collaborative content creation in ability-diverse teams. Maitraye has published in premier HCI venues including ACM’s CHI, CSCW, ASSETS, TOCHI, and TACCESS. Her work has been recognized with two Best Paper Awards, three Best Paper Honorable Mentions, and a Diversity and Inclusion Award at top conferences including CHI and CSCW. She has also received a CS PhD Student Research Award and two research grants from Northwestern University. In 2021, Maitraye was selected as a Rising Star in EECS by Massachusetts Institute of Technology.