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Accessibility in Educational Placement for Students with Disabilities (AcTinSite)

The Accessibility in Educational Placement for Students with Disabilities (AcTinSite) project aims to work in collaboration with people involved with student placements, including Placement managers, Administrators, and Staff who work in Accessibility Services. To meet our aim, we will create a toolbox. Here stakeholders can find what is needed to support the inclusion of students with disabilities in placements. The expected stakeholders we plan to engage with are Students with disabilities (with or without an official diagnosis), Placement managers at the education and placement institution, and Staff in Student Accommodation Services.

Lab Collaborators: Schweertman, Corrie  Smith, Hilda  Godbout, Thalia  Omeire, Divine  Victor-Ogbondah, Zannie  Saif, Shaheer  Van Berkel, Ellie 

Other Collaborators: Iris Epstein (School of Nursing, York University) Lindsay Stephens (Department of Human Geography, University of Toronto) Nastaran Dadashi (School of Design, George Brown College) Karen Swartz (Associate Director, Student Accessibility Services (SAS), York University)

Accessible Making for Assistive Technology (AM4AT)

This program of research focuses on the category of Assistive Technology (AT).  It interrogates and critiques the social construction of this class of technologies and seeks to intervene via the development of techniques and platforms that create new and improved paths of inclusion for the creation of ATs using maker methods and personal-scale fabrication.

This program of research is funded by an NSERC Discovery Grant titled “Accessible Making for Assistive Technology” (2018-2025)

Lab Collaborators: Baljko, Melanie  Akhavan Kazemzadeh, Sarah  Bertrand, Dyllan  Attala, Sara  Hamidi, Foad  Collis, Ryan  Hussain, Fatima O. 

Other Collaborators:

Deliberately Slow Interfaces

This research initiative is an umbrella for projects that investigate systems with deliberately slow interfaces, such as tangible embedded system that use a living media interfaces or other ‘strange’ approaches (e.g., flexural materials, one-degree of freedom articulators).  This umbrella includes the Rafigh project (a dissertation research project by Foad Hamidi) and Austin Vuong’s somaesthetics project.

Lab Collaborators: Hamidi, Foad  Vuong, Austin 

Other Collaborators:

ENAbling MEdia for braille Literacy (ENAMEL)

The objective of the ‘ENAbling MEdia for Literacy’ (ENAMEL) research project is to develop and to evaluate the digital technologies that are required by stakeholders to support vibrant ecosystems for literacy development. The ENAMEL project is currently supporting two projects: one focused on supporting learning of early-level Braille (in North America) and the other focused on capacity building in Special Education contexts in an East Africa country. The project focuses on low-cost, DIY technologies (such as 3D printing and low-cost single-board computers, such as Raspberry Pi and Arduino) and open source software. These technologies provide innovative and new approaches to supporting the development of functional knowledge in learners (primarily children) concerning printed and written materials. This project espouses user-centered, rather than technology-centered, design approaches, and seeks to critically reflect on the hidden assumptions, ideologies and values underlying the design of such technologies.

Lab Collaborators: Attala, Sara  Patel, Runa  Sartipi, Ramona  Azari, Sara 

Other Collaborators:

Fabrication Lab-in-a-Kit (FLiK): DIY Assistive Technology for Children with Disabilities in Kenya

The FLiK Project uses a Community-Based Research approach to understand the socio-economic, cultural, psychological and technological dynamics that determine the impact of designing, developing and deploying do it yourself (DIY) digital assistive technology for Kenyan children with disabilities. The project examines how cultural attitudes and norms about disability affect the process of development and use of digital assistive technology for this population and investiagtes how collaborative Participatory Design (PD) processes shift the understanding of technology and disability in this cultural context.

Lab Collaborators: Hamidi, Foad 

Other Collaborators: Michaela Hynie Michaela Hynie (Department of Psychology, York University) Susan McGrath (School of Social Work, York University) Patrick Mbullo Owuor (Executive Directory, Pamoja, a Community Based Organization)

Human-Centered Signal Processing for Health and Wellness

This initiative focuses on the use of real-time signal processing in human-centered interactive applications, with a focus on health and wellness. This initiative includes various projects, including the design of a VR-EEG system for guided meditation (Parreira), the Parametric Kinematic Speech Project, and Serious Games for Child-Focused Speech Therapy.  The Real-Time Visualizations of the Vocal Tract for Clinical Interventions (VTV) project is connected to this umbrella of projects, and has its own project page.

Lab Collaborators: Parreira, Daniel  Zou, Daniel  Zhian, Mehrnaz  Monge, Manuel Merino 

Other Collaborators: Yana Yunasova (Department of Speech Language Pathology, University of Toronto) Petros Faloutsos (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, York University)

Inclusion and Access in Educational Technology

This research initiative is an umbrella for projects that investigate ways to innovate in the ways that learners experience educational environments that are mediated by digital technologies. At present, this initiative includes two projects:

Lab Collaborators: El-Shebiny, Raghad 

Other Collaborators: Vassilios Tzerpos (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, York University) Anni Siren (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, York University)

Investigating Computer-Mediated Discourse about Disability

This initiative focuses on investigating the ways in which disability is taken up in various online discourses, with a specific focus on how ableism is reproduced and reinscribed in these online conversations. Various projects under this umbrella have focused on different on-line platforms, such as in discussion forums and within fan-fic communities.

Lab Collaborators: Bestard Lorigados, Elias  Baljko, Melanie  Poustizadeh, Mana  Tam, Andrew 

Other Collaborators:

The TalkBox Project

The TalkBox Project has the following goals: to provide a low-cost open-source, open-hardware Speech Generating Device (aka “SGD”) to the community, so that those who need such devices can more easily obtain them; to empower more individuals who have disabilities be makers themselves; to create an ecosystem of making that provides employment opportunities for high school students who have developmental disabilities.

Lab Collaborators: Akhavan Kazemzadeh, Sarah  Bertrand, Dyllan  Dixit, Shweta  Haworth, Brandon M.  Patel, Runa  Poustizadeh, Mana  Hamidi, Foad  Banyard, Melissa  Lee, Sunjik 

Other Collaborators: Ray Feraday (Special Education Teacher, Toronto Catholic District School Board)

Visualizing the Normate (VTN)

Ableism can be understood as a system of assigning value to people’s bodies and minds based on societally constructed ideas of normalcy, productivity, desirability, intelligence, excellence, and fitness (Lewis, 2022). These ideas are captured in the concept of the normate, “a privileged and de-stigmatized body representing a universal or ideal type” (Garland Thomas, 2016). Both outside and within the guiding principles of universal design, the normate template stands (Hamraie, 2012), albeit either as an uninterrogated, surreptitious assumption or as a design process antithesis. There is a broad need to visually depict and to create narrative about the normate in the public, private and non-profit sectors, and these efforts connect with emerging democratized media ecologies with emancipatory possibilities.

This project proposes seeks to investigate the following:

(A) How to characterize the constituencies that have information needs, data interactions, and engage in decisionmaking connected to quantitative and qualitative data about the normate?

(B) To what extent, if any, do HEI educational resources (ERs) consider structural issues of accessibility (e.g., the normate template, digital literary, entry barriers to dataviz education and practice) in teaching about datavis? What is the relative coverage of issues of structural accessibility as opposed to the accessibility of the datavis artefacts themselves? What exists in terms of Open Educational Resources (OERs)?

(C) Which datasets have the most utility for visualization of the normate? Which visualizations of these datasets exist already and what new variants could be devised? How do or could these visualizations avoid the re-inscription of ableism (e.g., medicalized categorization of disability in the datavis)?

(D) What do or could extant or novel data visualizations of the normate do for [Potentially] Interested Parties in terms of their key activities (decision-making, design, analysis)?

This project is funded via the York Catalyzing Interdisciplinary Research Cluster (CIRC) “Inclusive and Accessible Data Visualizations and Analytics (IADV)”, led by Enamul Hoque-Prince.

Lab Collaborators: Konroyd, Edmund  Grandison, Richelle 

Other Collaborators: Shital Desai (School of Arts, Media, Performance, and Design, York University)

Completed Projects

ACTon: Disability Accommodation Stories in Placement

The ACTon project employed participatory visual methods to engage both disabled students and placement instructors in order to learn about the challenges they encountered when communicating about accommodations in placement. The PiET Lab collaborated in the development of several interactive learning modules (videos and supplementary materials), which are intended to increase awareness of and knowledge about the rights of disabled students in education and to decrease barriers to disabled students’ success in placement and experiential-education programs.

Lab Collaborators: Godbout, Thalia  Park, Hyunju (Joo) 

Other Collaborators: Iris Epstein (School of Nursing, York University) Lindsay Stephens (Department of Human Geography, University of Toronto) David Gelb (Department of Design, York University) Nazilla Khanlou (School of Nursing, York University) Marian MacGregor (Executive Director, Centre for Human Rights, Equity & Inclusion, York University) Judith McDonnel (School of Nursing, York University) Roxanne Mykitiuk (Osgoode Hall Law School, York University) Ellen Schraa (School of Health Policy & Management, York University) Karen Swartz (Associate Director, Student Accessibility Services (SAS), York University) Linda Juergensen (School of Nursing, York University)

Borderless Higher Education for Refugees (BHER) UX/KMb Research Project

The Borderless Higher Education for Refugees (BHER) Project aims to make educational programs available where refugees need them.  The UX/KMb Research Project was a sub-initiative to design and develop a set of digital tools to provide other institutions and stakeholders with the means to create their own BHER-like initiatives.

Lab Collaborators: Banyard, Melissa  Smith, Hilda 

Other Collaborators: Don Dippo (Faculty of Education, York University) Giles Wenona (Anthropology, York University)

Lo-Fi: Low Fidelity Representation of Agents

Lo-Fi is the name of a multi-year collaborative media art practice between Nell Tenhaaf and Melanie Baljko.  It explores on the relationships that form between human interactants and populations of artificial agents, particularly when the embodiments of the artificial agents are deliberately made to be highly abstract (and thus have low-fidelity to human agents). Of particular interest is the attribution of agency by human interactants within interactive systems. Agents are abstracted entities, composed of light clusters, having multiple modes of visual and auditory expression, and are embedded in surfaces with dimensionality and depth.  This media art practice has both artistic and scientific goals.

Lab Collaborators: Kaftarian, Michael 

Other Collaborators: Nell Tenhaaf (Visual Arts, York University)

Real-Time Visualizations of the Vocal Tract for Clinical Interventions (VTV)

Speech impairments arise often due to difficulties controlling and coordinating the tongue, the most important speech organ. In the VTV project, we are devising novel modes of visualization for use in a clinical setting for interventions focused on tongue movements. Our goal is to develop a suite of visualization techniques to provide salient feedback both to clients and to clinicians, for use among the client-clinician therapeutic dyad. The feasibility of this approach is predicated on recently completed work that provides a sensor-rich alternative to acoustic-to-articulatory inversion, an approach that is based on the Wave system (Norther Digital, Inc.), which is a state-of-the-art enabling technology that can track a patient’s tongue with sub-millimeter accuracy. This work is funded in part by the Centre for Information Visualization and Data-Driven Design (CIV-DDD). These research activities are being undertaken by a collaborative team consisting of members from York, University of Toronto and OCADU (M. Baljko, Y. Yunosova, P. Faloutsos, N. Tenhaaf and F. Lebouthillier).

Lab Collaborators: Zarringhalam, Rojin Majd 

Other Collaborators: Yana Yunasova (Department of Speech Language Pathology, University of Toronto) Petros Faloutsos (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, York University) Francis Le Bouthillier (Sculpture/Installation, OCAD University) Nell Tenhaaf (Visual Arts, York University)

Synchrum: A Tangible Interface for Rhythmic Collaboration

Synchrum is a tangible tool for rhythmic collaboration, inspired by Tibetan prayer wheel.  Synchrum calculates rotations per minute and compares it with a target rate, deciding whether a user is in synch and for how long. Thus, it affords audience participation via sustained in-synch rhythmic movement, using a tangible physical object. It can be used to engage the audience in a digital performance that opens the possibilities for collaboration in narration and extends the range of expression.

Lab Collaborators: Hamidi, Foad  Moakler, Alexander  Gadot, Assaf 

Other Collaborators: Nell Tenhaaf (Visual Arts, York University)

Technologically-mediated commemorative tattoo practice

This project focused on aspects of UX research and design for a digital repository for commemorative tattoos and contextualizing narratives.  We repurposed and pilot-tested omeka as a tool of social empowerment.

Lab Collaborators: Duhig, Robert 

Other Collaborators: Deborah Davidson (Department of Sociology, York University)

XR Sandbox

Augmented Reality (AR) technology expands the physical world by adding digital information layers onto what we can see with the naked eye. The virtual layers (topography, geology, hydrogeology, and other Earth-related elements) help students engage with the visualization of 3D problems, something that traditional 2D class material does not readily afford. AR is beginning developed for use in education and students from the technology-infused generation are very familiar and comfortable with these technologies. Therefore, AR technology provides an experiential environment that students intuitively utilize and will allow them to experience the physical environment where fieldwork is inaccessible or expensive. The main goal is to embed such technologies and enhance our students’ experiential education from first through to fourth-year courses across Lassonde School of Engineering. This will spark student curiosity, improving their visual understanding, going beyond the classroom to see and experience the impact of their decisions on the design in an immersed environment.

Lab Collaborators: Baljko, Melanie  Jadidi, Majgan  Perras, Matthew  Khan, Usman 

Other Collaborators: