Inclusive by Design
Professor Anne Marie Piper researches human-computer interaction and accessible computing, focusing on equitable and inclusive digital experiences for people of all ages and abilities. Much of her work involves building and studying new technologies for individuals with disabilities and older adults. “Frequently, accessibility is a post-hoc adaptation instead of being part of the design from the beginning,” says Piper. By designing for accessibility from the ground up, she creates more inclusive technologies that support collaborative work among ability-diverse teams of professionals and academics.
Tools for Creativity
One project of interest for Professor Piper involves designing new tools that help people with disabilities express their creativity and produce content. “Accessibility is often about providing access to content created by sighted folks,” she says, “rather than about developing tools to help artists, writers, and audio professionals with vision impairments create their own content.” Working with teams of writers who are blind, she has explored how the teams perform collaborative writing and how technology can augment existing workflows to create more equitable practices. She has also worked with a community of weavers who are visually impaired, designing technology based on the sounds of the looms.
Technology for Change
Accessible content production tools challenge norms about who is a content producer. “This speaks to the broader societal importance of addressing employment and education gaps for people with disabilities,” says Professor Piper. A lack of accessible tools can contribute to these gaps, but it’s only part of the challenge. “If you are the only blind person on your team or in your graduate student program,” she explains, “day-to-day challenges with technology are compounded by societal expectations of productivity and power dynamics in those teams.” She views technology design as a way of calling attention to ableism and ageism and advocating for societal change.