SIGACCESS is called to action

Black Lives Matter. The recent murders in the United States of Black citizens including Rayshard Brooks, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arberry, Breonna Taylor, and many others at the hands of police officers have once again drawn attention to systemic racism in the United States and around the world. The SIGACCESS Executive Committee stands with the Black Lives Matter movement and rejects racism, both personal and institutional, while acknowledging that we have much to learn and unlearn.

Life as a person of color with a disability or neurological difference is especially dangerous. Many high profile victims of police violence are also people with disabilities (Perry & Carter-Long, 2016). Black people with disabilities have the highest likelihood of being arrested before age 28 of any race/ability group (McCauley, 2017), and “disabled individuals make up a third to half of all people killed by law enforcement officers.” (Perry & Carter-Long, 2016) Even at school, “students of color who have been labeled “disabled” are more likely (by 31 percent) to be suspended and expelled from school than other kids.” (Ijeoma, 2019)

SIGACCESS is a community dedicated to promoting the interests of people with disabilities, older adults and neurodiverse communities through technology. 17% of ASSETS 2019 attendees reported identifying as a member of an underrepresented racial or ethnic group at their place of work. How can our community’s research address intersectionality of race and ability? Do we develop technologies that meet the needs of communities of color? Is our research community as open and welcoming as we like to think it is, for colleagues of color to participate and take on leadership positions?

Black scholars have issued a call to action to the computing community, and to ACM to combat racism within computer science. ACM’s Diversity and Inclusion Council has committed to taking concrete actions outlined in an expanded statement. There are many ideas that SIGACCESS can implement, and many parallels with discussions at ASSETS 2019 on improving representation of people with disabilities in leadership roles and decision-making groups, and amplifying the scholarly contributions of our researchers with lived experience of disability.

SIGACCESS is committing a minimum of $10,000 (this is 100% of our projected revenue from financial year 2020) and calling on the community for proposals on how best to invest this fund to tackle racism and ableism in accessibility research. What do you think are the priority actions that will broaden participation in SIGACCESS and create a supportive, welcoming, safe and inclusive community? What initiatives could you contribute to? Please join the conversation by adding your comments to our online document or sending them to


  1. Oluo, Ijeoma. 2019. So You Want to Talk About Race. Basic Books.
  2. Erin J. McCauley 2017. The cumulative probability of arrest by age 28 years in the United States by disability status, race/ethnicity, and gender, American Journal of Public Health 107, no. 12 (December 1, 2017): pp. 1977-1981.
  3. David Perry & Lawrence Carter-Long, 2016. The Ruderman white paper on media coverage of law enforcement use of force and disability: a media study (2013-2015) and overview