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Community Spotlight

2016 September 23
by Amaya Webster

Spotlight on Derek Riemer

Derek Riemer is currently in his senior year at the University of Colorado at Boulder where he is majoring in computer science.  He is interested in human centered computingaccessibility and UniversalDesign. Derek, a self-described “baby engineer”, has already racked up a laundry list of accomplishments including being an Eagle Scout, the recipient of the Super Student award at Ralston Valley High school, a contributor to the NVDA screen reader project and most recently Benetech’s summer engineering intern which we want to call attention to because he did an outstanding job.

Over the course of the eight week internship, Derek worked on a variety of projects including adding dyslexic font support to Readium’s open source reader which is scheduled to be included in their 0.25 October release. He also worked towards building out the Diagrammar content model through the addition of alternative modalities like additional text and tactile graphics files by integrating Diagrammar into an EPUB book using custom web elements.

He was a joy to work with and impressed everyone on our team. Charles LaPierre, Technical Lead for DIAGRAM positively glowed about Derek saying, “I have worked with a number of interns over the years and this by far has been the most rewarding experience.”

So thank you Derek for a great summer! We enjoyed your positive energy and curious nature. We wish you the best of luck with your new school year and look forward to continuing to work with you through the DIAGRAM Center’s Developers Working Group!

Spotlight on Jacob Wobbrock and Richard Ladner

The University of Washington has very strong research programs in accessible computing. Jacob O. Wobbrock, professor in the Information School, leads the Mobile and Accessible Design Lab and Richard E. Ladner, professor in Computer Science and Engineering leads the Accessibility Research Group. For the past five years both have focused on mobile platforms, smart phones and tablets. Wobbrock’s primary research has been on low-level interaction with computer screens. He is the inventor of EdgeWrite, a unistroke text entry method for people with certain mobility related disabilities. He and his student Shaun Kane were the first to demonstrate that modern touchscreens could be made accessible using gestures and speech output in the seminal paper “Slide Rule, Making Touch Screens Accessible to Blind People Using Multi-Touch Interaction Techniques.” Ladner’s primary research focuses on accessibility applications for blind, deaf, and deaf-blind people. He is the creator of the Tactile Graphics Assistant, which provides software and a workflow to quickly transform all the figures in textbooks into a tactile format. He worked with the DIAGRAM Center to extend that work to quickly translate figures to tactile/auditory format.  Instead of Braille in the tactile graphic, QR codes with the same information are printed in the same location as the Braille where they can be scanned and spoken using a smartphone. He also created the ASL-STEM Forum, an online forum, for people to upload videos of American Sign Language for scientific terms. His student, Jeff Bigham, created WebAnywhere, a web-based screen reader that can be used from any computer without downloading any software. His student, Shiri Azenkot, created Perkinput, a Braille-based technique to enter text on a touch screen. Former Ph.D. students of Wobbrock and Ladner teach at Harvard, University of Colorado, Carnegie Mellon University, Cornell Tech in New York City, and the University of Iowa, where they all continue to do accessibility research. Other former Ph.D. students are at Apple, Google, and Intel where they develop accessible products and services.

Professor Ladner also serves on the DIAGRAM Center Advisory Committee and several Working Groups and is a recent recipient of the 2016 SIGACCESS Award for Outstanding Contributions to Computing and Accessibility which recognizes individuals who have made significant and lasting contributions to the development of computing technologies that improve the accessibility of media and services to people with disabilities. Congratulations Professor Ladner and thank you both for all that you do!

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