Emily Q. Wang

My research in human-computer interaction is at the intersection of accessibility, collaboration, and content creation.

I investigate how experiences with disability and accessibility unfold in interactions with technology, the environment, and other people. I am curious about (1) how to empower people with disabilities in higher education and the workplace, (2) how technology helps or hinders accessibility in daily work activities and longer-term professional success and (3) designing novel tools to support the work practices that emerge between people with disabilities and their colleagues.

I adopt an interdisciplinary research approach that incorporates ideas and methods from Communication Studies, Computer Science, and Critical Disability Studies. This includes using qualitative methods to interview and observe these teams (both the people with disabilities and their collaborators) as well as prototyping new interfaces to support content creation and communication. My interface designs are inspired by how these teams opportunistically incorporate existing technologies into their work practices and how we can address usability challenges or augment their work process.

I am a PhD student in Technology & Social Behavior, a joint doctoral program in Communication Studies and Computer Science at Northwestern University. I am advised by Dr. Anne Marie Piper in the Inclusive Technology Lab. Before attending Northwestern, I completed a self-designed engineering major at Olin College of Engineering with coursework in computer science, human-centered design, and psychology.


Investigating Accessibility in the Writing Process with Professionals with Dyslexia

(Current Project) I am conducting qualitative and design-based research to explore accessibility in the writing process and design productivity tools for professionals with dyslexia. Although my prior work and other studies of ability-diverse collaboration lay the conceptual foundation for accessibility in workplaces as a socially co-created phenomenon, less is understood about how disabilities that notably affect users’ experiences with text will impact the writing process or other forms of content creation. Given that writing is often collaborative (e.g., sending a file with track changes and comments, editing a shared Google Doc), I am also curious about how dyslexic writers and their co-authors incorporate both assistive technology and mainstream productivity tools into their work practices.

Accessibility in Action: Co-Located Collaboration among Deaf and Hearing Professionals

Two people pair programming, one using the laptop keyboard and the other using an external keyboard connected to the same computer. Both people have their hands on the keyboard and are looking at the screen.
A figure of the video analysis software that was included in the methods section of the research paper. The video frame is of a Deaf-hearing dyad collaborating next to each other in front of their laptops. There is also a screenshot of their shared Google Doc in the video.
Published and presented at ACM CSCW 2018 [digital library link to paper]

We often rely on spoken language during face-to-face interactions in higher education and the workplace. However, this spoken language norm breaks down with collaborators who are Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing. Accommodations such as captioning and sign language interpreting work well with advanced notice, but there are many situations when accommodations are not available yet professionals still must communciate and collaborate. Despite accessibility in higher education and the workplace being a well-known issue, less is known about how disabled and nondisabled coworkers create accessible group interactions in technology-rich work environments.

In my first project at Northwestern, we explored how Deaf and hearing professionals use both visual-gestural and spoken communication strategies in various collaborative tasks such as pair programming and academic writing. This included semi-structured interviews and a video analysis of their ongoing co-located work meetings. We found that these teams create accessibility through their moment-to-moment interaction, their communication preferences vary depending on the person and task, and Deaf-hearing teams negotiate new norms for interaction that include spoken language, sign language, gesture, lipreading, writing, typing, and combinations thereof.

Publications and Presentations


  • Emily Q. Wang and Anne Marie Piper. 2018. Accessibility in Action: Co-Located Collaboration among Deaf and Hearing Professionals. Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction 2, CSCW: 180:1–180:25. https://doi.org/10.1145/3274449

Workshops, Posters, and Talks

  • Creating Accessibility in STEM Professional Practices; Human-Computer Interaction Student Research Colloquium Series, (Northwestern University) March 15, 2018
  • Co-located Collaborative Accessibility; Enabling and Understanding Embodied STEM Learning Workshop at the Computer-Supported Cooperative Learning (CSCL) Conference, (Pennsylvania, USA) June 18, 2017
  • Co-located Collaborative Accessibility in Deaf and Hearing Teams; Disability Studies Working Projects Roundtable at the University of Chicago Disability Studies Workshop, (University of Chicago) May 19, 2017