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Cynthia Bennett receives Microsoft dissertation grant

June 19, 2018

Cynthia Bennett, a PhD student in the Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering, has received a Microsoft Research Dissertation Grant to support her dissertation on disability-informed human-centered design.

Bennett, who has a vision disability, is developing a toolkit to increase the ability of people with disabilities to design products that other people with disabilities can use.

From the Microsoft Research website:

Cynthia Bennett


Cynthia Bennett
University of Washington

Dissertation Title: Toward Disability-Informed Human-Centered Design

Experience shows us that people with disabilities can positively impact interaction design for everyone. However, publishers of interaction design rubrics–such as Human-Centered Design–have tended to focus on supporting the design process for people with disabilities, rather than by them. My research focuses on developing an inclusive toolkit that augments current Human-Centered Design activities to be accessible to people with disabilities. Drawing from this toolkit, I will offer new ways to connect disability with design, all based on the life experiences of people with disabilities.

The Microsoft Research Dissertation Grant program is awarded to students in their fourth year or beyond of PhD studies who self-identify with a group underrepresented in computing. The program is intended to support the diversity of woman and underrepresented minorities in computing research, bringing in more unique perspectives and fueling innovation.

Bennett is one of eleven students selected from over 200 applicants by the scientists at Microsoft Research for this grant, based on the potential impact of her research. Earlier this month, she was awarded Dennis Lang Student Award from the University of Washington's Disability Studies Program, for her commitment to issues of social justice as they relate to people with disabilities.

In addition to the monetary award, Bennett will attend the two-day Microsoft Research workshop in autumn 2018. There, awardees will present their research, meet with researchers in their field, and receive career coaching.

The Microsoft Research Dissertation Grant program is in its second year. HCDE PhD candidate John Porter received the grant in 2017. 

Read more about Cynthia's dissertation and the 2018 recipients on the Microsoft Research website.