The OurCS@UW+AccessComputing workshop, a two-day research-focused workshop for undergraduate women with disabilities in computing fields, was held April 11 – 13, 2019 at the University of Washington in Seattle, WA. The workshop aimed to increase the participation of women with disabilities in computer science research.


Thirty-six students with disabilities from universities nationwide were immersed in an interactive workshop with mentors from UW, other universities, and Google. Participants completed a competitive application process that required them to submit a resume, transcript, and explain their interest in the workshop. Preference was given to participants who showed potential for research in computer science fields.

A group of 13 female mentors participated in the workshop as well. The mentors were graduate students, postdocs, and faculty members in computer science that shared about their experiences and led students in research explorations. Many of the mentors had disabilities themselves.


Activities included a series of research presentations, professional development presentations, and engagement in research explorations. Led by graduate students or faculty members, the explorations gave an in-depth focus on accessibility-related topics, including app accessibility, accessibility of design methods, fabrication for accessibility, social robots for mental health, accessible virtual reality, and teachable machines for sign language. Working in small groups with mentors, students explored these areas and presented their findings at the conclusion of the workshop. 


Thursday, April 11

6 - 8 pm                 
Welcome reception        

Friday, April 12

9 - 9:30 am             
Welcome and logistics    

9:30 - 10:15 am     
Keynote: Shiri Azenkot, Cornell University  

10:30 am - 12 pm  
Research workshop: Meet with research leaders and teams

12 - 1 pm               

1 - 2 pm                 
Research presentations from mentors  

  • NLU for Targeted Domains - Eva Schlinger, Google
  • Informing Human-Computer Interaction Methods and Approaches with Disability Studies - Cindy Bennett
  • Measuring Mobile App Accessibility - Annie Ross
  • Teachable Object Recognizers for People with Visual Impairments - Hernisa Kacorri

2:30 - 5 pm           
Research workshop part 2

5 - 6:30 pm           
Dinner and discussion

6:30 - 7:30pm       
Research workshop part 3

Saturday, April 13

9 - 9:45 am           
Keynote: Fabric of a Career - Jen Mankoff, UW     

10 am - 12 pm      
Research workshop part 4

12 - 1:30 pm         
Lunch and panel of mentors with disabilities
Panelists: Cindy Bennett (UW), Megan Hofmann (UW), Julia Ferraioli (Google)

1:30 - 2:30 pm      
Finding a research opportunity: Panel on REUs and graduate school
Panelists: Jen Mankoff, Maya Cakmak (UW), Hernisa Kacorri (UMD) 

2:30 - 4 pm           
Research workshop: Prepare presentations

4 - 5:30 pm           
Research workshop: Team presentations       

5:30 - 6:30 pm      
Dinner (optional)   


After the workshop, participants continued to engage with the AccessComputing Team. This gave participants an avenue for continued mentoring and engagement in professional development activities. Many participants have become active members in the AccessComputing online mentoring community. Two students at the workshop connected with a research mentor and were able to make plans to participate in AccessComputing-funded Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs) with a mentor they met at the workshop in summer 2019. Additional workshop participants engaged in AccessComputing REUs and REUs funded by other organizations in summer 2020.


A Google ExploreCSR grant of $35,000 provided the primary financial support for the workshop. Additional funding and support, including staff time, was provided by the UW Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering and AccessComputing. Funding covered the cost of participants’ travel, sign language interpreting, catering for meals, and materials for workshops.

Lessons Learned

For individuals who wish to conduct a similar activity, project organizers suggest the following:

  • Be sure to allow sufficient time for groups to work on their research projects. Students built skills and relationships during this time. Providing enough time for these projects allows students to learn more and get a better sense of what it might be like to engage in a research project.
  • Provide a mix of structured time for presentations and unstructured time that allows participants to network with one another.
  • Have more than one mentor in each research exploration group. Students benefited from getting to know multiple mentors with varied backgrounds, interests, and career paths.
  • Facilitate communication between mentors and their group members before the workshop. It is helpful for mentors to know about their group members’ backgrounds and any accommodations that they might need. It also allows mentors to assign background reading for students to complete ahead of time.