Maitraye Das, Northwestern University: “Augmenting Ability-Diverse Collaboration: Designing for Accessible Collaborative Content Creation by People with Vision Impairments”

Position: PhD Candidate

Current Institution: Northwestern University

Abstract: Augmenting Ability-Diverse Collaboration: Designing for Accessible Collaborative Content Creation by People with Vision Impairments

Although 2020 marked the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act which offers employment discrimination protections a huge disparity still remains in educational and career prospects for disabled people. One reason for this disparity is the lack of accessibility in mainstream collaboration tools which are used widely in academic and professional settings. My doctoral research addresses this by studying and designing for accessible collaborative content production in two diverse yet complementary contexts. My first line of research focuses on collaborative writing in professional settings where blind and sighted coauthors work remotely using digital writing tools like Microsoft Word and Google Docs. My second line of work explores co-located collaboration in a creative making context where blind weavers and sighted instructors produce hand-woven products using physical materials and tools (e.g. looms yarns) in a community weaving studio. Methodologically I take a design-oriented multi-stage approach that involves contextual interviews observations and long-term involvement with community members to develop an in-depth understanding of work practices needs and expectations of disabled content creators. Drawing on these insights I design develop and evaluate interactive technologies that aim to facilitate collaboration awareness coordination dynamics and work efficiency for disabled people. In the writing context I developed auditory representations for collaboration features using non-speech audio voice coding and contextual markers that support blind writers in both asynchronous and synchronous writing. In the weaving context I built an audio-enhanced loom and an accessible pattern designing tool to augment blind weavers’ embodied understanding of the weaving process and the product. By studying these contexts that are distinct in terms of location tools scope and organizational milieu my research uncovers rich nuances of ability-diverse collaboration that directly informs accessible design of productivity and computational tools.


Maitraye Das is currently a PhD candidate in Technology and Social Behavior a joint doctoral program in Computer Science and Communication at Northwestern University where she works with Prof. Darren Gergle and Prof. Anne Marie Piper. Her research sits at the intersection of human-computer Interaction (HCI) computer-supported cooperative work and accessible computing. Specifically her doctoral work involves studying and designing for accessible collaborative content creation in ability-diverse teams that involve people with and without vision impairments. Maitraye has published in premier HCI venues including ACM’s CHI CSCW ASSETS Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction and Transactions on Accessible Computing. Her work has been recognized with best paper honorable mentions at CHI and CSCW and a best paper award at IEEE COMPSAC. She has also received a CS PhD Student Research Award and a Graduate Research Grant from Northwestern University for her work. For more info visit