Vision for an Accessible SIGCHI

Stacy Branham, Soraia Prietch
ACM SIGCHI EC Adjunct Chairs of Accessibility

Across the globe and throughout history, people with disabilities have been excluded from and even harmed by public institutions, including the academy (e.g., [1,2]). Within ACM SIGCHI, where our mission is to “enhance our members’ ability to innovate and understand technologies for the greater public good” (our emphasis), many of our members and community stakeholders identify as disabled. Removing accessibility barriers and addressing ableism are therefore important to our community and our society at large. SIGCHI’s human-centered approach to technology makes it well-positioned to be among those leading the charge for accessible scientific communities in computing.

Building upon a constellation of ongoing activities to enhance accessibility, the SIG took the next step in solidifying its anti-ableist** commitment by creating the Adjunct Chair for Accessibility position. In this statement, as the inaugural position holders, we outline both a long-term vision for this position and short-term goals for enacting our vision over the course of our first term ending in July 2021.

Vision

We seek a future in which people with a diverse range of disabilities can participate in all aspects of the SIGCHI community––as SIGCHI leaders, volunteers, and members. 

Approach and Values

To realize this vision, we will work closely with the SIGCHI Executive Committee (EC) and SIGCHI members, particularly those with lived experience of disability, to identify accessibility barriers and ableist processes, co-develop and implement progressive solutions, and communicate outcomes with our membership. We will attune ourselves to the unique inequities faced by people with multiply-marginalized identities. We wish to grow a more equitable community hand-in-hand with our partners, respecting authorship and celebrating collective achievements.

Goals

1. Increase accessibility responsiveness and transparency for SIGCHI members

New accessibility needs and barriers are constantly arising in our dynamic field and world.  To address this, it is essential to have ongoing dialogues with disability experts and transparent communication about the state of accessibility in SIGCHI, but we do not currently have a structure for this sort of engagement. We will initiate regular dialogues with ACM SIGCHI members with disabilities; SIGs with accessibility expertise like ACM SIGACCESS; and disability advocacy groups, like Access SIGCHI. We will communicate regularly about the state of accessibility, including via SIGCHI blogs and social media.

2. Connect SIGCHI volunteers to accessibility resources

Accessibility is a responsibility shared across volunteer roles, yet not all volunteers are aware of the why and how of accessibility, or they simply need additional support to achieve it. While SIGCHI provides accessibility guidelines, links to important new resources (e.g., ACM’s Accessible Virtual Conferences guide) are missing. Further, there is no easy way to regularly communicate guidelines or offer advisement to volunteers. We will assemble and enhance existing accessibility guidelines for our community, streamline dissemination to volunteers, and provide customized advisement upon request.

3. Track global accessibility barriers and opportunities for the SIGCHI EC

SIGCHI is an increasingly diverse organisation with numerous activities that intersect with accessibility, including supporting conference organization, overseeing aspects of publication, and developing technical infrastructure. Further, our members face culturally-situated access barriers. The SIGCHI EC currently lacks adequate documentation of these activities and barriers, making it difficult to effectively prioritize and allocate resources. We will create a succinct document that summarizes accessibility barriers and opportunities, with sensitivity to our global membership.

4. Advocate for lasting accessibility change within SIGCHI and ACM

As with any volunteer-run organization, the people who do the work come and go, but the culture, documents, guidelines, and policies can leave a lasting impression. We will advocate for including the AC for Accessibility position in the incoming EC; pass our documentation off to the incoming EC; and, where possible, work with staff and leadership at the ACM to update policies that impact accessibility.

We look forward to reflecting back on our progress toward these goals at the end of our term and sharing results with the community.

** Ableism, akin to other “-isms” like sexism and racism, is discrimination against people with disabilities. In the mode of the anti-oppressive framework [3], “anti-ableism” is the active pursuit of social justice by removing ableist barriers at the individual, cultural, and structural levels.

References

  1. Mitchell, D. T. and Snyder, S. L. 2003. The Eugenic Atlantic: race, disability, and the making of an international eugenic science, 1800–1945. Disability & Society, 18(7): 843–864.
  2. Brown, N & Leigh, J. 2018. Ableism in academia? Where are the disabled and ill academics. Disability & Society, 33 (6): 985–989.
  3. Smyth, T. & Dimond, J. 2014. Anti-oppressive design. Interactions, November-December 2014, 21(6):  68–71.

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