Emily Q. Wang

My research in human-computer interaction is at the intersection of accessibility and collaborative technology.

I investigate how an individual's experience with disability and accessibility unfolds 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 their daily work activities and professional development, and (3) designing novel tools to support the collaboration 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 group work. 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 streamline 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.


Accessibility of Collaboration and Content Creation

(Current Project) I am conducting interviews and designing interfaces to explore the accessibility of professional writing and support content creators with learning disabilities. Given that professional 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 writers with learning disabilities and their co-authors adopt various tools and work practices throughout different stages of the writing process.

Accessibility of Co-Located Collaboration

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