2021 ASSETS Conference

By Richard Ladner

The 23rd International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility (ASSETS 2021) was held virtually October 18-22, 2021. AccessComputing partner representatives served as general chair (Jonathan Lazar), program co-chair (Heidi Feng), and treasurer/registration chair (Kristen Shinohara). The conference celebrated two 50 year anniversaries, ACM SIGACCESS and the Trace Center. SIGACCESS has been the sponsor of the ASSETS conference since its inception in 1994. The Trace Center, started by Gregg Vanderheiden in 1971 is a major contributor to technology and technology policy related to disability (see the accompanying article in this issue). Two panels of “old timers” discussed the history of SIGACCESS and the contributions of the Trace Center. There was also a rich program of keynote addresses, technical papers, experience reports, panels, posters, demos, artifact competition, and a doctoral consortium. 

The ASSETS doctoral consortium was held on the Friday before the conference. There were 424 people registered for the conference. Participation was by Zoom and Discord. All sessions had captioning and American Sign Language translation. Most presentations were prerecorded with live question and answer sessions following the recordings. There were two keynote presentations, one by Axel Leblois, a well-known speaker on ICT accessibility, and Annalu Waller, Professor at the Dundee University, Scotland, who is well known for her work on augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). There were 35 technical papers, 6 experience reports, 14 presentations of Transactions on Accessible Computing papers, 68 posters and demos, and 14 submissions to the Artifact Award. Among the many presentations at the conference there are authors who were current or former AccessComputing students and AccessComputing partner representatives.

On the last day awards were announced for Best Paper, Best Student Paper, and the winners of the Artifact Competition. In addition, the 2021 SIGACCESS ASSETS Paper Impact Award was also announced at the conference (see the accompanying article in this issue). As a personal note ASSETS 2021 was the best online technical conference that I have attended so far during the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only was it highly accessible with high quality content, it was fun. There was a 1970s Zoom dance party and a 1970s-themed singalong. Congratulations to all the organizers for making ASSETS 2021 so successful.