05-499/899 G :: Accessibility:

A Guide to Building Future User Interfaces

Access technologists are the ultimate interface hackers. They take existing technology and make it work for people and situations for which it wasn’t designed -- they transform visual interfaces into landscapes of sound and touch, they overlay interfaces that people with low dexterity can use on top of interfaces requiring fine motor control, and they turn speech and sound into visual displays. This course teaches how access technology is built to work within the tough technical and human constraints in which it must operate. As early adopters, people with disabilities have inspired a host of future user interface technologies, e.g., conversational assistants, text-to-speech, speech recognition, optical character recognition, predictive typing, tactile displays, etc. People with disabilities continue to be the first users of interface next-generation technologies that are gradually adopted widely. This course will not only teach you the deep inner workings of today’s user interface technology, but will also serve as a guide for building the user interfaces of the future.

Accessibility Topics will include: Text to Speech, Speech Recognition, Screen Readers, Voice Input, Optical Character Recognition, Screen Magnification, Alternative Input, Tactile Displays, Text Summarization, Web Transformation, Augmentative and Alternative Communication

If you have any questions, please contact jbigham@cs.cmu.edu

Register for 05-499/899 G

a microwave with various 3d-printed tactile overlays near it boy using the Dytective dyslexia screener on a laptopa screen showing a captioning session during a talk at a conference

Benefit to Students

In this class, you’ll be exposed to a wide range of interactive accessible technology, learn how it is built, and practice building it. This is directly beneficial if you want to have impact in this important area, but broadly beneficial to anyone who wants to build interactive systems. The course will give you the experience to build a wide-variety of different kinds of interactive systems that go far beyond the standard GUIs of today. This is useful if you intend to build them, or if you want to understand the technological constraints for designing them.

Work Required

This course is not intended to be a “killer” course. Your primary weekly work will be 1 or 2 short readings, watching less than 30 minutes of videos relevant to the course, attending class, and completing 1 project each 1.5-2 weeks designed to be less than 4-5 hours of work each. The projects will involve some programming and setting up systems, which will serve as useful platforms for future interactive systems you might want to create. The structure of the projects will limit the work you need to do to the core components necessary; the nature of accessibility work however often requires integrating with (hacking) other running systems, so there will be some setup required and working through how to get them running contributes to this core learning goal of the course.

There is no final exam or final project in this course. Students who do well and want to do so will be invited to continue on an independent project working with Prof. Bigham during Spring semester.

Structure of Classes

Each class will be organized around a specific access technology (see the schedule below) and include some or all of the following components -- instead of being covered in the class, some lecture components may be covered via videos designed to be watched beforehand:


Tentative Schedule

Week 1:  Introduction

Overview of the technical contributions motivated by enabling accessibility.

Week 2:  Web Hacks

Week 3a:  Speech to Text

Week 3b:  Screen Readers

Week 4a:  Computer Vision

Week 4b:  Text to Speech

Week 5:  Augmentative and Alternative Communication

Week 6:  Input

Week 7:  Mobile

Week 8:  Tactile Displays

Week 9:  Computer Vision

Week 10:  Language and Cognitive Disabilities