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

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 1-1.5 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.

Late Assignments

The main work in the course is built around the near-weekly projects, thus it is important to complete them. The assignments often build on one another, and so being late with one runs the risk of putting you behind for future assignments. We grade our assignments in class together because this provides an additional learning opportunity, where you learn not only how you completed your assignment yourself, but also get to talk through with a classmate how they completed the assignment, what problems they might have had, etc. Thus, I highly encourage you to get your assignments in on time.

That said, I realize that things happen, and that you might sometimes not be able to turn in your assignments. To accommodate this, you will each receive 5 “free” late days, and you will each be able to miss one in-class grading session, without penalty. Beyond those days, you receive a 5% penalty and each in-class grading session missed beyond the first will cause a 20% penalty. If you have a medical or other excused absence, please let me know as soon as possible, and I will work to accommodate you.

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:


Office Hours

Please stop by my office hours!

Normal office hours are from 2-5pm on Thursdays in 407 S. Craig (second floor, in the back). Please also feel free to email me anytime at
jbigham@cs.cmu.edu. I tend to respond very quickly, but please do email me again if you don’t receive a response within 24 hours.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

If you have a disability and have an accommodations letter from the Disability Resources office, I encourage you to discuss your accommodations and needs with me as early in the semester as possible. I will work with you to ensure that accommodations are provided as appropriate. If you suspect that you may have a disability and would benefit from accommodations but are not yet registered with the Office of Disability Resources, I encourage you to contact them at access@andrew.cmu.edu.

Statement of Support for Students’ Health & Well-being

Take care of yourself.  Do your best to maintain a healthy lifestyle this semester by eating well, exercising, avoiding drugs and alcohol, getting enough sleep and taking some time to relax. This will help you achieve your goals and cope with stress.

All of us benefit from support during times of struggle. There are many helpful resources available on campus and an important part of the college experience is learning how to ask for help. Asking for support sooner rather than later is almost always helpful.

If you or anyone you know experiences any academic stress, difficult life events, or feelings like anxiety or depression, we strongly encourage you to seek support. Counseling and Psychological Services (CaPS) is here to help: call 412-268-2922 and visit their website at http://www.cmu.edu/counseling/. Consider reaching out to a friend, faculty or family member you trust for help getting connected to the support that can help.

If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal or in danger of self-harm, call someone immediately, day or night:

CaPS: 412-268-2922

Re:solve Crisis Network: 888-796-8226

If the situation is life threatening, call the police

On campus: CMU Police: 412-268-2323

Off campus: 911

If you have questions about this or your coursework, please let me know. Thank you, and have a great semester.

This page and contents are copyright Jeffrey P. Bigham except where noted.