Nothing About Us Without Us

Investigating the Role of Critical Disability Studies in HCI

A workshop at CHI 2020

Call for Submissions || Organisers || Background || Schedule || Accessibility || Accepted Submissions

Note: We use identity-first language when referring to a group of disabled people to avoid artificially constructing language around disability (Sinclair, 2013). However, personal preferences differ between individuals and should be respected as such.

During last year’s opening session, CHI 2019 organizers celebrated a promising shift: the increased interest within Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) in Accessibility topics, suggested by “accessibility” becoming one of the most common keywords in that year’s conference proceedings. Additionally, disabled academics continue to publish at CHI (e.g. Bennett & Rosner, 2019; Hofmann et al., 2019; Spiel et al., 2019a; Williams & Gilbert, 2019a). At the same time, CHI 2019 became an important site for the disabled scholars in the field to more publicly and politically demand access to conference spaces and increase the accessibility of scholarly procedures and activities (e.g., templates; Mankoff et al., 2019).

In a landmark paper about disability studies in HCI published in 2010, Mankoff, Hayes and Kasnitz argued for the active inclusion of disabled participants in research about them (Mankoff et al., 2010). However, many of the publications on issues of accessibility to date predominantly take a medicalized or interventional approach. This means, much HCI research about accessibility and disability aimed to mitigate or reduce the presence of disability markers and may not include disabled stakeholders in a meaning shaping capacity (Spiel et al., 2019b). As organisers of this workshop, we deem this tension to be productively articulated and analysed through the lens of Critical Disability Studies as [t]he politics of disability continue to reveal the very conditions of inequity (Goodley et al., 2019). That is, we believe that thinking about disability and research alongside systems of power emerge opportunities to emancipate more HCI scholarship to meaningfully engage disabled people holistically and to present plural, intersectional depictions of disability in publications and presentations (Williams & Gilbert, 2019b). Additionally, analyzing disability and research through critical lenses that account for systems of power will help HCI recognize disability as not just an identity out there (Bennett & Rosner, 2019) but one held by many researchers in the field (Brulé & Spiel, 2019), and interconnect the research we publish with the people we expect in positions of power. In that, our workshop builds on previous gatherings at CHI (e.g., Rode et al., 2016), but extends these by establishing a theoretical backing and reaching beyond the CHI conference into HCI scholarship more generally.

Our critique does not ignore scholarly work already addressing accessibility and technological interactions of disabled people–also outside the group of organisers. We notice that there is an increase in participatory design methods and more qualitative, people-centred inquiries. However, we also notice that those are somewhat loosely connected, working off of different paradigms and without a common epistemological or even political footing. While we do not argue that this is an achievable or even desirable goal, we want to investigate together with participants working within different paradigms, what Critical Disability Studies can offer to their academic and personal practice. Our investigation will be driven by reflecting on personal experiences researching accessibility and/or being disabled within the academy. In creating a manifesto for Critical Disability scholarship in HCI, we will actively identify potential future research projects and identify strategies aiming at equity for disabled researchers. Hence, this workshop offers the opportunity to reconcile some of the above-mentioned tensions by drawing on Critical Disability Studies as a lens for HCI research as well as a theoretical framing for (self)representation of disabled researchers.


Cynthia L. Bennett and Daniela K. Rosner. 2019. The Promise of Empathy: Design, Disability, and Knowing the “Other”. In Proceedings of the 2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’19). ACM, New York, NY, USA, Article 298, 13 pages.

Emeline Brulé and Katta Spiel. 2019. Negotiating Gender and Disability Identities in Participatory Design. In Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Communities & Technologies -Transforming Communities (C&T ’19). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 218–227.

Dan Goodley, Rebecca Lawthom, Kirsty Liddiard, and Katherine Runswick-Cole. 2019. Provocations for Critical Disability Studies. Disability & Society 34, 6 (2019), 972–997.

Megan Hofmann, Kristin Williams, Toni Kaplan, Stephanie Valencia, Gabriella Hann, Scott E. Hudson, Jennifer Mankoff, and Patrick Carrington. 2019. “Occupational Therapy is Making”: Clinical RapidPrototyping and Digital Fabrication. In Proceedings of the 2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’19). ACM, New York, NY, USA, Article 314, 13 pages.

Jennifer Mankoff, Gillian R. Hayes, and Devva Kasnitz. 2010. Disability Studies As a Source of Critical Inquiry for the Field of Assistive Technology. In Proceedings of the 12th International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility (ASSETS ’10). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 3–10.

Jennifer Mankoff, Anne Spencer Ross, Cynthia Bennett, Katta Spiel, Megan Hofmann, and Jennifer Rode. 2019. 2019 SIGCHI Access Report.

Jennifer Rode, Erin Brady, Erin Buehler, Shaun K. Kane, Richard Ladner, Kathryn E. Ringland, and Jennifer Mankoff. 2016. SIG on the State of Accessibility at CHI. In Proceedings of the 2016 CHI Conference Extended Abstracts on Human Factors inComputing Systems (CHI EA ’16). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 1100–1103.

Jim Sinclair. 2013. Why I dislike “person first” Language. Autonomy, the Critical Journal of Interdisciplinary Autism Studies1, 2.

Katta Spiel, Christopher Frauenberger, Geraldine Fitzpatrick, and Eva Hornecker. 2019a. Effects of Participatory Evaluation – A Critical Actor-Network Analysis. In Extended Abstracts of the 2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI EA ’19). ACM, New York, NY, USA, Article CS02, 8 pages.

Katta Spiel, Christopher Frauenberger, Os Keyes, and Geraldine Fitzpatrick. 2019b. Agency of Autistic Children in Technology Research – A Critical Literature Review. ACM Trans. Comput.-Hum. Interact.26, 6, Article 38 (Nov. 2019), 40 pages.

Rua M. Williams and Juan E. Gilbert. 2019a. Cyborg Perspectives on Computing Research Reform. In Extended Abstracts of the 2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI EA ’19). ACM, New York, NY, USA, Article alt13, 11 pages.

Rua M. Williams and Juan E. Gilbert. 2019b. ‘NothingAbout Us Without Us’: Transforming Participatory Research and Ethics in Human Systems Engineering. Diversity, Inclusion, and Social Justice in Human Systems Engineering.