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Jacob Wobbrock honored with SIGCHI Social Impact Award

Friday, February 17, 2017

Jacob Wobbrock, an associate professor at the Information School, has earned the SIGCHI Social Impact Award for his research into improving how people – particularly those with disabilities – interact with computers and information.

The award from SIGCHI (Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction), a branch of the Association for Computing Machinery, is given annually to individuals who promote the application of human-computer interaction research to pressing social needs.

Wobbrock’s research focuses on “Ability-Based Design," where the human abilities required to use a technology in a given context are questioned, and systems are made operable by or adaptable to alternative abilities. He directs the UW’s Mobile & Accessible Design Lab and is a founding member of the DUB (design: use: build:) Group. Over the years, he has received 19 paper awards, including seven best papers and seven honorable mentions, from ACM SIGCHI, the world’s leading organization in the field of human-computer interaction.

“I'm honored to have been recognized by ACM SIGCHI with the Social Impact Award for 2017,” he said. “Since I began my Ph.D. program in 2001, I have worked within HCI on accessible computing to explore and improve the design, construction, evaluation, and deployment of assistive and accessible computing solutions for people with disabilities, trying to make computers and information easier to access and use,” he said.

For example, his Slide Rule project (with Shaun Kane and Jeffrey Bigham) was the first to make touchscreen devices such as smartphones accessible to blind people. Slide Rule influenced the design of the VoiceOver accessibility feature on Apple iOS devices.

The award will be presented in May at CHI 2017 in Denver, Colorado. CHI is the premier conference on human-computer interaction, and the UW leads the way with 49 papers accepted this year, a testament to its prominence in the HCI field. The papers came from DUB Group contributors from departments across the UW campus, which include the iSchool, Human-Centered Design & Engineering, Computer Science & Engineering, and the Division of Design in the School of Art.

Previous recipients of the Social Impact Award include Professor Batya Friedman of the iSchool (2012) and Professor Emeritus Richard Ladner of Computer Science & Engineering (2014).