News from the Research Commons

February 22, 2017

Spotlight on: Annie Spencer Ross and Smartphone Accessibility


“Button unlabeled.” When developers don’t make apps accessible, screen reader users hear this phrase. Did you open email? Instagram? NPR News? Unlabeled equals unclear.

Annie Spencer Ross is working towards her PhD. in Computer Science & Engineering, focusing on “different technologies and different ways that people think of to start using these technologies.” Specifically, her research is about accessible smartphone applications. Screen readers and gestural cues make smartphones easily usable for differently-abled persons  – except when an app isn’t coded with accessibility features. Educating app developers, integrating company cooperation, and utilizing volunteers is necessary for, as Annie puts it, “getting technology to people who need it.”

Annie’s next step engages in a large-scale analysis looking at major accessibility problems with apps. Rather than correcting individual apps one-by-one, a holistic view incorporating accessibility is necessary to make apps available for everyone.