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37th Annual CSUN Assistive Technology Conference Has Concluded

Involving Users with Disabilities in UX Research

Date & Time
Thursday, March 17, 2022 - 4:20 PM PST  
Grand ABCD  
MATLAB Online is not your typical website. It’s a complex single-page web application that allows users to analyze data, develop algorithms, and create models and applications. Students, educators, and researchers at universities and colleges worldwide use MATLAB Online for various applications, including deep learning and machine learning, signal processing and communications, image processing, and control system design. This talk describes how we involve users with disabilities in UX research, the type of research activities in which users participate, the impact this has had on our accessibility program, and future opportunities to scale UX accessibility research efforts within MathWorks. MathWorks has a UX Research team of over 30 researchers but was new to researching with users with disabilities when the accessibility program started in 2018. As UX Researchers, we want to advocate for users with disabilities and provide opportunities for our development teams to observe first-hand what aspects of our design work well and don’t work well for keyboard-only and screen reader users. To start, we needed to find users who require a keyboard or a screen reader to use MATLAB Online. We partnered with disability resource centers at various universities, a blindness rehabilitation center in the Boston area, and referrals from inside MathWorks to find users. We wanted to find users from anywhere to participate in research sessions using their computers and assistive technology. As we were finding users, we started preparing to run remote research sessions. Sessions focused on interviewing users about their experience using MATLAB Online or their installed MATLAB version. We even had users try out pre-defined tasks using MATLAB Online. Before running these sessions, we had to make sure everything the user would be interacting with before, during, and after a session was also accessible. Since we’ve been conducting UX research sessions over the past two years, we’ve found each study has uncovered usability issues and provided insights into how well our design aligns with how users expect our software to work. At each session, we have members of the development team observe what works and what doesn’t and ask users questions. This has helped us develop a deeper understanding of design problems and build empathy so we can act as advocates and practice more inclusive design thinking. As the development teams iterate on fixes for the usability issues we uncover in our research sessions, we go back to users and have them re-evaluate the updates and try out new features that have been implemented. In parallel, we have started a customer advisory board made up of users with disabilities who are end-users of our software and individuals who can act as user proxies and experts in accessibility. This board provides feedback on the direction of our accessibility program at MathWorks. As we continue to focus on making our software more accessible, this has led to future opportunities to scale UX accessibility research within MathWorks. All UX Researchers are learning how to work with users with disabilities to be involved in research activities, and UX Researchers can themselves develop a deeper understanding of their users’ needs and advocate for them.  
  • Higher Education
  • Information & Communications Technology
  • Government
  • Research & Development
Audience Level
Session Summary (Abstract)
It is imperative to involve users with disabilities in UX research to evaluate the accessibility of complex single-page web applications such as MATLAB Online. This talk describes our process for finding and working with users with disabilities so they have a voice in our efforts to make MATLAB Online accessible.  
Session Type
General Track  
  • Blind/Low Vision
  • Design
  • Digital Accessibility
  • Research
  • Web


  • Bora Eryilmaz
    The MathWorks, Inc.

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