Image source: UW DO-IT, 

Nearly 1 in 5 Americans has a disability that may affect their ability to use technology. Yet the technology sector hasn’t caught up with demand. More than 60 percent of technology industry managers report difficulty in finding job candidates with accessibility skills. UW Bioengineering recognizes the need to make designing for accessibility second nature as students and researchers develop new technologies to increase access to health care.

UW Bioengineering faculty Alyssa Taylor headshot

Alyssa Taylor

Alyssa Taylor, associate teaching professor in bioengineering, has received a Curriculum Development Award from Teach Access to advance teaching of the design and development of accessible technologies. The end goal is to ensure everyone can use a range of technologies, from getting past a login screen to managing home health care tasks, such as an injection or rapid test, to using devices in emergency situations.

UW BioE students already gain exposure to universal design principles and accessibility in their design courses, but the new grant will increase the emphasis of accessibility in the curriculum and introduce students to these important concepts earlier in their educational careers.

“This grant from Teach Access will help us train the next generation of bioengineers in accessible design and development from the very start of their curriculum, so our graduates will be better equipped to design, develop and build new technologies that are accessible to everyone,” Dr. Taylor said.

Alyssa Taylor teaches a class pre-COVID-19

Alyssa Taylor, associate teaching professor, teaches a traditional class prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Taylor, who is also UW BioE’s undergraduate program coordinator, plans to introduce accessibility and Universal Design during a core class of the BioE program, “Introduction to Bioengineering Problem Solving Course (BIOEN 215),” offered this fall 2021. The proposed curriculum includes talking with a panel of students who identify as having disabilities and hands-on development of prototypes. The effectiveness of the course materials will be evaluated and the curriculum will be shared broadly with other educators across the country.

Teach Access is a collaboration of education, industry and disability advocacy organizations aimed at enhancing students’ understanding of digital accessibility as they learn to design, develop and build new technologies with the needs of people with disabilities in mind.

The University of Washington is a member institution of Teach Access.

May 20, 2021, is the 10th annual Global Accessibility Awareness Day.