Student Profile: Kavita (AccessComputing News - January 2014)
My name is Kavita. I am a PhD student in computer science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) and I plan on graduating in 2015. I earned my bachelor’s degree in computer science and mathematics from UMBC. I conduct research that increases independence for people with disabilities and impacts the field of human robot interaction. Specifically, I work on the design and development of a robotic system to assist people with disabilities in their daily lives. I may not achieve all of my research goals before I finish my PhD, but I look forward to continuing to work on them throughout my career.
I have the motor neuron disorder called spinal muscular atrophy. Due to the severity of my disability, I am only able to move the index finger of my right hand. With my index finger, I have the ability to use a computer with a trackball mouse and an onscreen virtual keyboard with word prediction. Studying computing with a disability is difficult; however, it is possible to succeed with the help of campus support services and professors focus on your individual needs and accommodations. In my own experience, Student Support Services at UMBC has helped me effectively communicate with professors, arrange extended time to submit course work, attend classes remotely via Skype, and secure electronic books.
I am passionate about computing because it allows me to maximize my potential without being hindered by my physical limitations. The field is highly accessible and accommodations are easy to implement if accessibility ever becomes an obstacle. Additionally, computing allows me the opportunity to contribute to assistive technology development that may help maximize the potential of other people with disabilities like mine.
After graduate school, I am interested in conducting research and teaching. I want to emphasize the importance of an inclusive environment for all by conducting academic research. I hope to advance technology development and increase diversity as a leader in computing, accessibility, and robotics. I want to increase the active participation of underrepresented minority groups in the community locally, nationwide, and internationally via research, especially people with disabilities, in order to improve their quality of life.