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Dissertation Defense: Kristen Shinohara

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Friday, May 26, 2017
12 - 2 p.m.
Allen Auditorium

You are cordially invited to join us for the Dissertation Defense of Kristen Shinohara, to be held on Friday, May 26, beginning at 12 p.m. in Allen Auditorium. Below, you will find the dissertation abstract and the Supervisory Committee.

Title: Design for Social Accessibility: Incorporating Social Factors in the Design of Accessible Technologies

Abstract: Assistive technologies are intended to help people with disabilities accomplish everyday tasks. Yet, such technologies are traditionally designed exclusively with functionality in mind, not with consideration for social situations of use. As a result, assistive technologies are often awkward-looking and socially awkward to use, leading to misperceptions about the technologies and their users. These misperceptions may impact the user’s sense of self-efficacy and self-confidence, leading assistive technology users to feel self-conscious when using devices in public, ultimately limiting access. Furthermore, most technology design approaches either assume accessibility is “someone else’s job” or that functional access is the only focus, promoting an inclination to overlook accessibility in design overall and preventing designers from fully considering social aspects of accessibility.

In this dissertation, I describe empirical studies that investigate the social implications of assistive technology use, that conceptualizes socially accessible design, and that examines how to effectively incorporate social factors into user-centered design techniques toward promoting diversity in design thinking. To address the negative and stigmatizing social perceptions associated with assistive technologies, I define Social Accessibility as a new property of accessible design extending our understanding of accessibility to include consideration for both functional usability and social situations of use. I present Design for Social Accessibility, a guiding perspective and a set of design tools and techniques emphasizing social factors in technology design. Through a series of design workshops, I demonstrate how designers use Design for Social Accessibility by (1) focusing on functional usability and social situations of use; (2) increasing awareness for how design can engender, rather than impede, access for people with visual impairments, particularly within social contexts; and (3) working with users with and without visual impairments in assessing when design influences self-confidence and self-consciousness. I develop an evaluation tool and demonstrate that technology design can be judged for social accessibility. The contributions of this dissertation are conceptual – motivating the need for, and defining, social accessibility and how it relates to functional accessibility; and empirical and methodological – showing how social factors influence assistive technology use and access, and applying new knowledge to increase awareness, change perspectives, and improve tools and techniques toward the design of socially accessible technologies.

Supervisory Committee:
Jacob O Wobbrock, Co-Chair
Wanda Pratt, Co-Chair
Richard E Ladner (CSE), GSR
David Hendry (Information School), Member
Clayton Lewis (University of Colorado), Member