Researchers awarded Google grant to make coding more accessible for disabled people

Researchers in the Digital Media Technology (DMT) Lab have been awarded a grant from Google’s Inclusion Research Program to further develop their research around making coding more accessible for disabled people.

This competitive international program from Google recognises and supports excellent academic research in computing and technology, which addresses the needs of historically marginalised groups.

The DMT Lab is the only UK recipient of the award and will use the grant to develop prototypes that help disabled people code in both remote and collaborative environments using non-traditional input tools.

An urgent challenge

Lead investigators Dr Chris Creed and Dr Sayan Sarcar will build on existing work within the DMT Lab to develop accessible tools for disabled developers.

The core emphasis of the project is supporting people with physical impairments who can experience significant challenges in using traditional input tools such as a mouse and keyboard to control mainstream software development environments.

To address this issue the project will explore new alternative multimodal approaches (i.e. a combination of eye gaze interaction, voice control, and mechanical switches) to make coding platforms more accessible.

The research will also explore how to create inclusive remote communication and collaborative coding tools for developers with physical impairments.

This is a particularly important and urgent challenge due to the increasing need for developers to work remotely within development teams during lockdowns and local restrictions.

Even as restrictions lift, these tools would help high risk individuals to continue working from home and collaborating with relative ease.

Working with disabled developers to create the best solutions

The project will involve working in partnership with relevant stakeholders in development and educational spaces to pinpoint the challengers disabled developers face in their work or study.

This data will then inform the prototype solutions the DMT Lab will create, which will be evaluated by students and developers with physical impairments.

The resulting tools will support both developers with physical impairments and the wider software engineering community through by providing insights around how to create usable and effective remote collaborative coding experiences.

Dr Creed (Principal Investigator) feels this work can help to address the significant challenges disabled developers currently experience around pursuing development careers:

Co-Principal Investigator, Sayan Sacar added:

“This grant provides a great platform to continue the DMT Lab’s research in this area and presents a fantastic opportunity for us to implement initiatives towards addressing key accessibility challenges.”