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, people, and the built sociotechnical environment. My research focus is on (1) calling out and intervening with the ableist practices of workplaces that were not built with disabled people in mind, (2) understanding how technology helps and hinders accessibility in daily activities and longer-term professional success, and (3) prototyping novel tools to support the co-created communication and work practices in cross-ability spaces.

I adopt an interdisciplinary research approach that incorporates ideas and methods from Critical Disability Studies, Computer Science, and Communication Studies. This includes applying qualitative methods to engage with disabled communities as well as prototyping new interfaces to support content creation and communication. My prototypes are informed by how disabled users already creatively re-appropriate existing technologies (broadly construed, low tech or high tech) in their daily work and explore how we can change existing norms and practices to better support disabled ways of being.

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 Dyslexic Professionals

(Current Project) I am conducting qualitative research and interface design projects to explore accessibility in the writing process and (re)design writing tools with dyslexic professionals. 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 shape users’ experiences with processing language 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

  • Paths of Allyship: Communication Preferences and Adapting Qualitative Research Methods with Disabled Bodyminds. Co-authored with Kathryn E. Ringland. Position paper for Nothing About Us Without Us: Investigating the Role of Critical Disability Studies in HCI at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI) 2020 (Cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic).
  • Investigating Accessibility in the Writing Process with Dyslexic Adults. Presentation at the University of Chicago Disability Studies Workshop. November 13, 2019.
  • Investigating Accessibility in the Writing Process with Dyslexic Adults. Doctoral Consortium at the ACM Conference on Computers and Accessibility (ASSETS) 2019 Conference. October 26-30, 2019.
  • 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