HCDE, UW CREATE researchers honored with top awards at ASSETS Conference on Computers and Accessibility

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Leah Findlater, an associate professor in the Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering, HCDE PhD students Lotus Zhang and Steven Goodman, and PhD alumna Cynthia L. Bennett received awards at ASSETS 2020, the International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility. 

ASSETS is the premier forum for presenting research on the design, evaluation, use, and education related to computing for people with disabilities and older adults. All contributions are peer-reviewed by an international program committee. 

SIGACCESS Best Paper Award

HCDE Associate Professor Leah Findlater and HCDE PhD student Lotus Zhang received the award for the best paper published in the ASSETS conference proceedings.

Full paper: Input Accessibility: A Large Dataset and Summary Analysis of Age, Motor Ability and Input Performance 


Age and motor ability are well-known to impact input performance. Past work examining these factors, however, has tended to focus on samples of 20-40 participants and has binned participants into a small set of age groups (e.g., “younger” vs. “older”). To foster a more nuanced understanding of how age and motor ability impact input performance, this short paper contributes: (1) a dataset from a large-scale study that captures input performance with a mouse and/or touchscreen from over 700 participants, as well as (2) summary analysis of a subset of 318 participants who range in age from 18 to 83 years old and of whom 53% reported a motor impairment. The analysis demonstrates the continuous relationship between age and input performance for users with and without motor impairments, but also illustrates that knowing a user's age and self-reported motor ability should not lead to assumptions about their input performance. The dataset, which contains mouse and touchscreen input traces, should allow for further exploration by other researchers.

SIGACCESS Best Student Paper Award

Dr. Cynthia L. Bennett, a 2019 alumna of HCDE's PhD program, received the best student paper award with co-authors including CREATE Co-Director Jennifer Mankoff, a professor in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science.

Full paper: Living Disability Theory: Reflections on Access, Research, and Design


Accessibility research and disability studies are intertwined fields focused on, respectively, building a world more inclusive of people with disability and understanding and elevating the lived experiences of disabled people. Accessibility research tends to focus on creating technology related to impairment, while disability studies focuses on understanding disability and advocating against ableist systems. Our paper presents a reflexive analysis of the experiences of three accessibility researchers and one disability studies scholar. We focus on moments when our disability was misunderstood and causes such as expecting clearly defined impairments. We derive three themes: ableism in research, oversimplification of disability, and human relationships around disability. From these themes, we suggest paths toward more strongly integrating disability studies perspectives and disabled people into accessibility research.

ASSETS 2020 Best Artifact Award

UW CREATE researchers, including HCDE PhD student Steven Goodman and Associate Professor Leah Findlater, received the best artifact award for the SoundWatch project. The best artifact award is awarded to researchers who have an accepted paper, poster, or demo related to the project at the ASSETS conference. The award is sponsored by Microsoft Research.

Full paper: SoundWatch: Exploring Smartwatch-based Deep Learning Approaches to Support Sound Awareness for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Users


Smartwatches have the potential to provide glanceable, always-available sound feedback to people who are deaf or hard of hearing. In this paper, we present a performance evaluation of four low-resource deep learning sound classification models: MobileNet, Inception, ResNet-lite, and VGG-lite across four device architectures: watch-only, watch+phone, watch+phone+cloud, and watch+cloud. While direct comparison with prior work is challenging, our results show that the best model, VGG-lite, performed similar to the state of the art for non-portable devices with an average accuracy of 81.2% (SD=5.8%) across 20 sound classes and 97.6% (SD=1.7%) across the three highest-priority sounds. For device architectures, we found that the watch+phone architecture provided the best balance between CPU, memory, network usage, and classification latency. Based on these experimental results, we built and conducted a qualitative lab evaluation of a smartwatch-based sound awareness app, called SoundWatch (Figure 1), with eight DHH participants. Qualitative findings show support for our sound awareness app but also uncover issues with misclassifications, latency, and privacy concerns. We close by offering design considerations for future wearable sound awareness technology.


UW CREATE launched in May 2020, fueled by an initial $2.5 million investment from Microsoft. The center is led by an interdisciplinary team of faculty from the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering, The Information School, Rehabilitation Medicine in the UW School of Medicine, Mechanical Engineering, Human Centered Design & Engineering, and the Disability Studies Program. CREATE had a strong presence at ASSETS 2020, with several other papers and posters accepted by CREATE researchers. Find the full list of CREATE contributions at ASSETS 2020 on the CREATE website.