Overview of ASSETS 2020: The Best Virtual ASSETS Yet!
Hugo Nicolau, ITI/LARSyS, Instituto Superior Técnico, Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal firstname.lastname@example.org
Karyn Moffatt, School of Information Studies, McGill University, Canada email@example.com
Tiago Guerreiro, LASIGE, Faculdade de Ciências, Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal firstname.lastname@example.org
In October 2020 was the 22nd edition of the ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility (ASSETS 2020), which took place online. The ASSETS conference is the premier computing research conference exploring the design, evaluation, and use of computing and information technologies to benefit people with disabilities and older adults. This year, the ASSETS conference continued its tradition of presenting innovative research on mainstream and specialized assistive technologies, accessible computing, and assistive applications of computer, network, and information technologies. We set a new attendance record with 395 attendees from 29 countries from all continents across the globe. Our organization and program committees were open to nominations from the community. We had 50 people attending the conference with the support of the SIGACCESS Diversity and Inclusion Scholarships.
SIGACCESS presented several awards during this year's conference. The biennial SIGACCESS Award for Outstanding Contributions to Computing and Accessibility was made to Dr. Jonathan Lazar, professor in the College of Information Studies (iSchool) at the University of Maryland, Associate Director of the Trace Research and Development Center, and a faculty member in the Human-Computer Interaction Lab (HCIL). Dr. Lazar gave the keynote presentation at the start of the conference, entitled "Accessibility Research in the Pandemic: Making a Difference in the Quality of Life for People with Disabilities" . The Best Paper Award was presented to Leah Findlater and Lotus Zhang for their paper "Input Accessibility, A Large Dataset and Summary Analysis of Age, Motor Ability and Input Performance". The Best Student Paper Award was presented to Megan Hofmann, Devva Kasnitz, Jennifer Mankoff, and Cynthia Bennett for their paper "Living Disability Theory: Reflections on Access, Research, and Design" .
Introduced in 2019, the "Artifact Award" highlights submissions offering a publicly available component, including apps, data sets, instructional guides, and commercial products. Twelve artifacts were submitted. By public vote, first place went to "SoundWatch: Exploring Smartwatch-based Deep Learning Approaches to Support Sound Awareness for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Users"  by Dhruv Jain, Hung Ngo, Pratyush Patel, Steven Goodman, Leah Findlater, and Jon Froehlich. In second place was "Eyelid Gestures on Mobile Devices for People with Motor Impairments"  by Mingming Fan, Zhen Li, and Franklin Mingzhe Li, and in third place was "Action Blocks: Making Mobile Technology Accessible for People with Cognitive Disabilities"  by Lia Carrari, Rain Michaels, Ajit Narayanan, Lei Shi, and Xiang Xiao. Winners received $1000, $500, and $250 awards for first, second, and third place, respectively, sponsored by Microsoft.
And Then There Was a Pandemic
As ASSETS's first online conference, this year introduced several changes to the conference format. In designing the program, we emphasized three priorities based on feedback from past and prospective attendees: (1) maintaining a single track for all technical papers, (2) ensuring space for social interaction, and (3) keeping the scheduled content manageable. We organized each day into two sets of technical content, with a larger break in the middle for social events and informal interactions, including ask-me-anything sessions, round-table discussions, opportunities to meet new researchers, and other attendee-initiated events. All technical sessions were organized as a series of short, pre-recorded talks, followed by a panel discussion with the authors, on Zoom.
Interaction before, during, and following the conference took place via a private digital platform (Discord), enabling registered attendees to engage with authors and each other through text chat and/or video conversations. The online platform enabled attendees to follow up with authors and ask more questions beyond the usual short Q&A, and it allowed authors to get more feedback on their work and follow up with people for more in-depth discussions. Additional channels were available to support social activities and informal interactions.
The ASSETS 2020 technical program comprised 3 days of presentations, panel discussions, and social events.
On Monday (Day 1), the program started with the keynote presentation by Jonathan Lazar. Following the keynote, we had our first technical paper session, Extended Reality for Navigation & Guidance, and our first poster session, featuring all nine SRC finalists and a selection of accepted posters and demos. The social break was followed by the technical paper sessions, Perspectives on Accessibility and Input Research, as well as a session covering this year's Experience Reports.
On Tuesday (Day 2), the program continued with the technical paper sessions, Tangible Interactions and Accessing Visual Content, followed by the second poster session, featuring a selection of accepted posters, demos, and of students who participated in the doctoral consortium. Following the social break, we featured a User Experience Panel, presentations by the finalists from the ACM Student Research Competition, and a technical paper session: Navigating Open Roads & Spaces.
On Wednesday (Day 3), we continued with the technical paper sessions: Privacy & Other Considerations for AI-Based Accessibility and Production Tools, followed by the final poster session, which included a set of accepted posters, demos, and of students from the doctoral consortium. Following the social break, the program concluded with a final set of technical paper sessions, Understanding Accessibility Barriers and Design Matters. We closed the program by introducing next year's chairs to talk about ASSETS 2021.
Keynote Presentation and SIGACCESS Award for Outstanding Contribution
We were privileged to have Dr. Jonathan Lazar as our keynote speaker for 2020 and recipient of the 2020 SIGACCESS Award for Outstanding Contributions to Computing and Accessibility. This award 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. This year's award to Dr. Lazar was in recognition of his work as an advocate for digital accessibility as well as his research on web accessibility, user-centered design methods, research methods, assistive technology, and policy and law related to HCI.
Dr. Lazar gave his keynote presentation, in the first session of the program, titled Accessibility Research in the Pandemic: Making a Difference in the Quality of Life for People with Disabilities . He discussed how accessibility researchers and practitioners have been working during the pandemic to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities and finished by suggesting potential areas of research and development work.
Papers, Posters, and Demonstrations
This year's technical program featured the most papers of any ASSETS conference to date. Of the 167 paper submissions received, the program committee selected 46 papers, for an acceptance rate of 28%. These papers present work from the leading edge of accessible computing research, including innovative user interfaces, advances in accessible education, and studies of how people with disabilities use, adapt, and create new accessible technologies. This year, we kept up the practice of inviting authors of papers accepted to the ACM Transactions on Accessible Computing (TACCESS) journal in the 12 months before the conference to present at ASSETS, which accounted for 7 additional presentations.
The program also included 48 posters and demonstrations, selected from 78 submissions (a 61.5% acceptance rate). The Posters and Demos track, chaired by Dhruv Jain and João Guerreiro presented late-breaking results from the research community, while the accepted demos provided an opportunity for conference attendees to virtually experience new advances in accessible technology.
Experience Reports and User Experience Panel
The Experience Reports track documents authors' personal or stakeholder experiences related to the creation, use, and deployment of accessible technologies. Chaired by Abi Roper and Sergio Mascetti, this track received 7 completed submissions, of which four Reports were selected for presentation, resulting in an acceptance rate of 57%.
We were delighted to have the User Experience Panel back on the program. Also chaired by Abi Roper and Sergio Mascetti, five invited panelists with diverse and interesting backgrounds shared their personal experiences and points of view on a range of topics related to computers and accessibility.
Student Research Competition
The ACM Student Research Competition (SRC), chaired by André Rodrigues and Raja Kushalnagar, offered a unique forum for undergraduate and graduate students to present their original research before a panel of judges, and also a chance to meet other students and to get direct feedback on their work from experts. This year, nine entries were selected as SRC finalists to give poster presentations, with selected participants also giving oral presentations at the conference. In the graduate category, Grazia Ragone won first place for "Designing Embodied Musical Interaction for Children with Autism"" . In the undergraduate category, Thomas B. McHugh and Cooper Barth took first place for their work, "Assistive Technology Design as a Computer Science Learning Experience"" ; we congratulate them for having, since then, presented their work in the ACM Grand Finals and having won the 1st prize.
ACM SIGACCESS is committed to developing the next generation of researchers in the field of accessible computing. This year's ASSETS continued the tradition of supporting and showcasing the work of student researchers. The doctoral consortium, chaired by Jonathan Lazar, Garreth Tigwell, and Astrid Weber, brought together 11 doctoral researchers to discuss their work with a panel of established researchers in a one-day workshop on the Friday before the main conference. This special edition of the SIGACCESS newsletter features extended abstracts from these doctoral students. We thank SIGACCESS for their generous support of the doctoral consortium.
As we reimagined ASSETS as a virtual event, we asked ourselves: How can we keep ASSETS welcoming in an online format? How can we organize activities that make people feel they are participating in a multi-faceted academic and networking event, and not just "seeing" a bunch of paper presentations?
Each day of the conference was split by a social break that focused on lighter, more interactive content. During this time, attendees could take a break, hangout in the lounge to informally chat and network with friends and colleagues in breakout rooms, or join an interactive session organized over a daily theme:
On Monday, our interactive session was an Ask-Me-Anything series, in which volunteers answered questions from the community. Tiago Guerreiro answered questions on organizing ASSETS, Shari Trewin on volunteering within SIGACESS, and Cynthia Bennett and Cole Gleason on making the conference and proceedings accessible.
On Tuesday, the interactive session covered the SIGACCESS Business Meeting, in which Shari Trewin presented the activities of the SIG and answered questions from the community.
On Wednesday, we broke into Round Table Discussionscovering the topics: Accessibility of remote work and education, Designing and setting up accessibility user studies remotely; The role of HCI and other disciplines in AT, and Disability, AI/ML, and justice.
We continued our social interactions on Discord. Each participant was welcomed by a member of the organizing committee and student volunteers. Channels were dedicated to introductions, networking, and informal chit-chat. Each paper had its own channel for continuing discussion beyond the live presentation, and attendees could also create their own channels guided by their interests. Our publicity and social chairs, Stephanie Valencia and Sayan Sarcar, tested attendees' knowledge of ASSETS trivia and social networking skills in the challenges channel. One such challenge was to vote for a People's Choice Award by 'liking' presentations on YouTube. "Navigating Graduate School with a Disability"  by Dhruv Jain, Venkatesh Potluri, and Ather Sharif won in the paper category, and "Keep Your Distance: A Playful Haptic Navigation Wearable for Individuals with Deafblindness"  by James Gay, Moritz Umfahrer, Arthur Theil, Lea Buchweitz, Eva Lindell, Li Guo, Nils-Krister Persson, and Oliver Korn won for posters and demos.
ASSETS 2020 was the best (and only) online ASSETS to date, but we expect that it will soon be considered the worst. We learned a lot through this experience, and we are generally pleased with the results. Logistically, the conference consisted of 30 Zoom sessions, 126 presenters, 26 session chairs, 18 SVs, 13 interpreters, and 12 captioners. We were able to support the same variety of content as in previous years, covering technical papers, posters & demos, experience reports, a user experience panel, and a student research competition. We lost out on the in-person contact we all cherish but found new ways to connect online. Zoom sessions averaged 155 attendees. Over 400 hundred attendees joined us on Discord, producing approximately 800 public messages per day, with some paper and topic channels amassing over 50 messages. We discovered through our trivia challenge that we all know a lot less about ASSETS history than we thought! And we found new ways of supporting and encouraging authors through the Peoples Choice awards.
In reviewing the post-conference feedback, we were blown away by the support and positive encouragement from the community. Attendees appreciated being able to engage asynchronously, with the presentations and the discussions, facilitating attendance across time zones and other time constraints. We were especially pleased to see messages from new attendees noting how the online format made attendance possible. While the shift to an online format meant giving up many longstanding benefits of ASSETS, it was delightful to see that it also made new ones possible. Figuring out the right balance remains a challenge, and one we thankfully leave in the hands of future conference chairs!
Organizing the ASSETS 2020 conference required a tremendous amount of work from authors, reviewers, committee members, and others. We thank the authors of all papers, posters, demos, experience reports, as well as the applicants to the Doctoral Consortium and Student Research Competition.
We thank the program committee for reviewing submissions and providing authors with helpful feedback. We also thank the members of our organizing committee: our Proceedings Chair Cole Gleason, our Treasurer Hernisa Kacorri, our Posters and Demos Chairs Dhruv Jain and João Guerreiro, our Doctoral Consortium Chairs Astrid Weber, Garreth Tigwell, and Jonathan Lazar, our Student Research Competition Chairs André Rodrigues and Raja Kushalnagar, our Inclusion and Diversity Chairs Kathryn Ringland and Ozge Subasi, our Mentoring Chair Yeliz Yesilada, our Publicity Chairs Sayan Sarcar and Stephanie Valencia, our Web and Graphic Design Chairs Sérgio Alves and Swapna Joshi, our Local Arrangements Chair Alexandros Pino, and our Accessibility Chairs Cynthia Bennett, Larwan Berke, and Paraskevi Riga.
We thank all student volunteers for all their hard work in making ASSETS 2020 possible: Connie Chau, Dennis Paulino, Diogo Branco, Elaine Czech, Filipa Rocha, Florine Simon, Francisco Teotónio, Franklin Li, Inês Santos Silva, Isabel Neto, Kath Jones, Lúcia Abreu, Manisha Varma, Maria Silva, Marta Carvalho, Pedro Melo, Pedro Russo, and Sunny Manduva.
We thank Shari Trewin, Matt Huenerfauth, Jinjuan Heidi Feng, Amy Hurst, Jeffrey Bigham, and Faustina Hwang for their support and guidance.
Finally, we thank our supporters: Apple, IBM Research, Microsoft Research, Facebook, and our sponsors ACM and SIGACCESS for their very generous support.
- Jonathan Lazar. 2020. Accessibility Research in the Pandemic: Making a Difference in the Quality of Life for People with Disabilities. In The 22nd International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility (ASSETS '20). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, Article 1, 1. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1145/3373625.3430947
- Leah Findlater and Lotus Zhang. 2020. Input Accessibility: A Large Dataset and Summary Analysis of Age, Motor Ability and Input Performance. In The 22nd International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility (ASSETS '20). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, Article 17, 1–6. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1145/3373625.3417031
- Megan Hofmann, Devva Kasnitz, Jennifer Mankoff, and Cynthia L Bennett. 2020. Living Disability Theory: Reflections on Access, Research, and Design. In The 22nd International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility (ASSETS '20). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, Article 4, 1–13. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1145/3373625.3416996
- Dhruv Jain, Hung Ngo, Pratyush Patel, Steven Goodman, Leah Findlater, and Jon Froehlich. 2020. SoundWatch: Exploring Smartwatch-based Deep Learning Approaches to Support Sound Awareness for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Users. In The 22nd International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility (ASSETS '20). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, Article 30, 1–13. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1145/3373625.3416991
- Mingming Fan, Zhen Li, and Franklin Mingzhe Li. 2020. Eyelid Gestures on Mobile Devices for People with Motor Impairments. In The 22nd International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility (ASSETS '20). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, Article 15, 1–8. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1145/3373625.3416987
- Lia Carrari, Rain Michaels, Ajit Narayanan, Lei Shi, and Xiang Xiao. 2020. Action Blocks: Making Mobile Technology Accessible for People with Cognitive Disabilities. In The 22nd International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility (ASSETS '20). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, Article 90, 1–4. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1145/3373625.3418043
- Grazia Ragone. 2020. Designing Embodied Musical Interaction for Children with Autism. In The 22nd International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility (ASSETS '20). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, Article 104, 1–4. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1145/3373625.341707
- Thomas B. McHugh and Cooper Barth. 2020. Assistive Technology Design as a Computer Science Learning Experience. In The 22nd International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility (ASSETS '20). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, Article 100, 1–4. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1145/3373625.3417081
- Dhruv Jain, Venkatesh Potluri, and Ather Sharif. 2020. Navigating Graduate School with a Disability. In The 22nd International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility (ASSETS '20). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, Article 8, 1–11. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1145/3373625.3416986
- James Gay, Moritz Umfahrer, Arthur Theil, Lea Buchweitz, Eva Lindell, Li Guo, Nils-Krister Persson, and Oliver Korn. 2020. Keep Your Distance: A Playful Haptic Navigation Wearable for Individuals with Deafblindness. In The 22nd International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility (ASSETS '20). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, Article 93, 1–4. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1145/3373625.3418048