A New Online Accessibility Study at UMD’s Inclusive Design Lab

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A user completing the pinching task from the study.

Last week we learned of a fascinating new study at the Inclusive Design Lab at the University of Maryland that is currently collecting data on how people of varying abilities accomplish motor tasks using computers. Researchers are hopeful that the data collected from this study can used when implementing accessibility features in future technology applications. The Life Labs team is excited to offer our support of these goals and the efforts of the Inclusive Design Lab with the help of our affiliate network.

The study is being led by Leah Findlater, whose work focuses on personalized adaptation, wants to lower the barriers when it comes to being able to access technology. “[Personalized adaptation] is a powerful tool to reduce information complexity and facilitate accessibility for a range of abilities and educational levels,” says Findlater.

The study is open to all participants 18 years of age and older, but Findlater and her group of researchers are especially interested in participants with upper body motor impairments and those who are age 55 and older. The study includes 4 to 6 basic computer tasks (such as clicking and dragging), as well as background and feedback questionnaires. Participation in the study does require access to a computer or an iPad and can be completed from your home. The study lasts anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes, with the chance of winning a $100 Amazon giftcard.

To participate or for more information, please visit the study website:

Find out more information about Leah and her work with Inclusive Design Lab, follow her on Twitter @LeahFindlater.

Life Labs Welcomes New Program Manager, Gabriel Forsythe y Korzeniewicz!

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Life Labs is excited to announce a new addition to our team! Gabriel Forsythe y Korzeniewicz has been brought on board help advance Life Labs’ mission of identifying, developing, & supporting innovations that benefit people with disabilities.

Gabriel is joining the team at a very exciting time for Life Labs. Gabriel brings with him experience in tech startups, as well as a passion for disability. He will be taking the lead in expanding our Innovation Lab series as well as establishing a game-changing entrepreneurs program that will take our mission to the next level.

Gabriel was born with an older brother with Down syndrome and has worked to address issues affecting people with all kinds of disabilities since a young age. He first discovered that an entrepreneurial spirit could be applied to his passion for disability when he spent a summer of high school as a peer mentor for children with autism.

Since then, he has refined his approach to entrepreneurship and innovation. We first met Gabriel when we provided support to him as he ran a startup that used emotion-recognition technology for voice to help children with autism. Today, we are very happy to welcome Gabriel to the Life Labs team and to have his expertise in taking Life Labs to the next level!

Life Labs Visits the Human Computer Interaction Lab

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On Monday, UCP’s Life Labs team visited the Human Computer Interaction Lab (HCIL) at the University of Maryland – College Park to find out more about its work on discovering how people interact with their computers. Our hosts at HCIL, Leah Findlater (@leahfindlater) and Jon Froehlich (@jonfroehlich) focus substantially on accessibility issues for people with disabilities.

At the moment, they are concentrating on a mapping project that identifies accessible/inaccessible public spaces and a glove that uses small cameras to help people with vision impairment identify their surroundings. They are also collecting online data on how people use touch screens and computer mice to navigate their computers.Human Computer

The HCIL has a long, rich history of transforming the experience people have with new technologies. From understanding user needs, to developing and evaluating those technologies, the lab’s faculty, staff, and students have been leading the way in HCI research and teaching.

Check out their innovative work at HCIL has a long, rich history of transforming the experience people have with new technologies. From understanding user needs, to developing and evaluating those technologies, the lab’s faculty, staff, and students have been leading the way in HCI research and teaching.
  Human Computer Interaction Lab at University of Maryland     Human Computer Interaction Lab Glove with Camera     20150824_110641

UCP’s Life Labs Receives Motorola Solutions Foundation Innovation Generation Grant

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United Cerebral Palsy has received a grant for $20,000 as part of the “Innovation Generation Grant” program from the Motorola Solutions Foundation, the charitable arm of Motorola Solutions, Inc. Through the grant, UCP’s Life Labs initiative will distribute universal design curriculum modules through iTunes U and offer an immersive two-day design challenge, called an Innovation Lab, to engage students across disciplines in human centered design concepts.

Demonstrating a Prototype

The Innovation Generation program awards organizations such as UCP that foster and support science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) initiatives for teachers and U.S. preschool through university students – especially girls and underrepresented minorities, such as people with disabilities.

“It’s amazing to watch people who participate in an Innovation Lab leave with a greater understanding of the challenges that people with disabilities face and a new confidence that they can participate in solving some of those challenges,” said Josef Scarantino, Acting Director of UCP’s Life Labs. “This program has the power to change career trajectories and open up a new worlds of creativity and innovation.”IMG_5334 (Large)

After several successful Innovation Lab events in 2014 and 2015, UCP’s Life Labs shaped the Innovation Lab into a curriculum, which can easily be adapted to any school degree program. Utilizing Apple’s iTunes U education content platform, UCP’s Life Labs plans to build a large national presence of students and open the curriculum to outside academic and industry collaboration. The curriculum and Innovation Lab events will be made available to UCP’s network of eighty affiliates through a toolkit that combines all the necessary resources.

The Motorola Solutions Foundation grant program overall will impact about 900,000 students and teachers, each receiving an average of 100 programming hours from our partner non-profit organizations and institutions. Programs will support special populations including girls and women, underrepresented minorities, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, people with disabilities and the military.

“The Motorola Solutions Foundation created the Innovation Generation Grant program eight years ago to support educational experiences that spark students to turn their dreams into the innovations that will shape our society’s future,” said Matt Blakely, director of the Motorola Solutions Foundation. “Organizations like UCP are teaching tomorrow’s leaders that careers in engineering and technology are not only fun, but also within their reach.”

For additional information on the Motorola Solutions Foundation grants programs, visit: and for more information on UCP please visit


About Motorola Solutions Foundation

The Motorola Solutions Foundation is the charitable and philanthropic arm of Motorola Solutions. With employees located around the globe, Motorola Solutions seeks to benefit the communities where it operates. The company achieves this by making strategic grants, forging strong community partnerships and fostering innovation. The Motorola Solutions Foundation focuses its funding on public safety, disaster relief, employee programs and education, especially science, technology, engineering and math programming. For more information on Motorola Solutions Corporate and Foundation giving, visit our website:

Innovation Lab Gives Birth to Diverse Ideas

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UCP’s Life Labs initiative held its first Innovation Lab last week in Chicago at Microsoft’s midwest technology headquarters, bringing out the most diverse and inclusive group of participants to date. In addition to many designers, engineers, technologists and other professionals, the event included our youngest-ever participant (age 12) and likely our oldest-ever participant (age 95). Several groups of Chicago Public School students with intellectual and developmental disabilities participated as part of their post-secondary employment training program. Plus, several participants with disabilities joined in from UCP Seguin, an affiliate organization of UCP in Chicago.

Running on CaffieneParticipants brainstorming their ideas.

Chief Technologist for Microsoft’s Midwest District, Paul Edlund, gave one of the lightning talks, which was a highlight for many at Innovation Lab. Edlund is the driving force behind Microsoft’s Hololens, a fully untethered, see- through, holographic computer.

Demonstrating a PrototypeParticipants demonstrating a prototype of their design.

In addition to being co-hosted by the Smart Chicago Collaborative, a civic organization devoted to improving lives in Chicago through technology, the Innovation Lab received support from the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, Microsoft and Level Office, a co-working space.

Find Out More About Innovation Lab and UCP

Microsoft’s Shelly Stern Gatch Interviews Marc Irlandez (VIDEO)

And The Winner’s Are…
After two days of intense ideation and innovation, including exercises to help build empathy among participants without disabilities and several rounds of rapid reports on each teams progress, a select panel of judges put the teams through a full presentation and question and answer session.
Presentation Stage 2A team presentation.
This year’s judges included:
  • Erin Simpson, Civic Tech Fellow, Microsoft
  • Jane Markham, Vice President, AT & T
  • and Richard Ellenson, CEO, Cerebral Palsy International Research Foundation (CPIRF)
Innovation Lab JudgesInnovation Lab Judges: Jane Markham (left), Richard Ellenson (center) and Erin Simpson.


Ultimately, the judges chose Team Wheelhouse with their idea for “”, a crowd-sourced, searchable information resource with information organized by activities and easily accessible through icons and simplified logic. Broad topics lead to more specific topics and are cross referenced with the most popular questions and answers along with related information. The winning team members included: Melissa Zlatow, Hugo DeGentile, Zain Adhami, Katherine Thurston, Miriam Guerrero and Michael T. Simpson.
In addition to the judges choice, the participants were given the opportunity to vote on their favorite project, which resulted in the People’s Choice award. Team Crazy Eights won over the crowd with their idea for “PorTable,” a flexible, portable, lightweight personal table for people who can’t be accommodated at standard size table (as they are either too tall or too short, or mobility devices can’t fit under the table). Team members included: Steve Luker, Jan Preble, Lukasz Grzybek, Cheryl Chen, Neha Singhal, Jackie DeThorne, Tara Havlicek, Ron Busse.
IMG_4084Innovation Lab winners, Team Wheelhouse, hard at work on
PorTable PresentationTeam Crazy Eights, giving their presentation for their design PorTable.


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Making Technology Accessible for Everyone

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The following post from Microsoft Chicago’s director and community advocate Shelley Stern Grach first appeared on on April 23. United Cerebral Palsy’s Life Labs initiative is hosting it’s first Innovation Lab at Microsoft‘s Technology Center in Chicago May 19-20. Find out more about the event and how you can be a part of this intense two-day design challenge at


How many of you are aware that 2015 marks the 25th anniversary of the American Disabilities Act?

I wasn’t until a few months ago, when I received  a call from United Cerebral Palsy. They were interested in hosting a hackathon for 100 people in May, and were looking for space to hold the hackathon. Fortunately, the Microsoft Technology & Innovation Center is ADA-compliant, and we are now thrilled to be hosting this wonderful program on May 19-20, when developers will be creating apps to help people with disabilities. At about the same time, I received a call from Chicago Public Schools to see if we could host a job shadow day for CPS students with disabilities. Those two calls sparked my interest, and  I also started to pay more attention to ADA 25 and to how meaningful technology can be to those who have a disability. To recognize and celebrate the important strides for people with disabilities, 2015 will be celebrating ADA 25 all year long and Chicago will be celebrating ADA 25 Chicago. This blog is the first in a series recognizing ADA 25 and its impact.

Our mission and social responsibility at Microsoft is to enable people throughout the world to realize their full potential with technology. To that end, we invested in creating an environment that capitalizes on the diversity of our people, and the inclusion of ideas and solutions, that meets the needs of our increasingly global and diverse customer base.

And that means developing technology that is accessible to anyone – regardless of age or ability. Technology has the potential to become our sixth sense.

People with disabilities are among the most marginalized groups in the world. People with disabilities have poorer health outcomes, lower education achievements, less economic participation and higher rates of poverty than people without disabilities.

Microsoft has a long history and commitment to accessibility. For more than 25 years, Microsoft has focused on creating technologies that make devices easier to use for individuals with a wide array of difficulties and impairments. Microsoft has listened, gained insights, and applied what it’s learned. The result is an increasing momentum toward the goal of making devices accessible and useful to all people. Today we empower hundreds of millions of people of all abilities around the world to use technology to enter the workforce, stay connected with friends and family, get things done and take full advantage of a digital lifestyle. We’ll spend more time in May looking at how apps can positively impact the lives of people with disabilities.

Today, I want to share with you how impressed I am with the teachers and students at CPS who visited us last week.

Making Technology Accessible for EveryoneLet’s start with CPS teachers like James Taylor. First, you just have to love his name! But more importantly, James spends his time focusing on all the students with disabilities at CPS, and one small part of his day is putting together field trips for the students to businesses, so the students can experience the corporate world. Originally, James thought we would have 2 or 3 students sign up. We had 27! Everyone arrived early and we began our day with a wonderful presentation by Paul Edlund, Chief Technology Officer – Microsoft Midwest, about the future of technology. It was a highly interactive session, with lots of questions and student engagement.

We then had a full tour of the Microsoft Technology & Innovation Center, led by Beth Malloy, Director, Microsoft Technology Center – Chicago and Bradley Trovillion, Technical Solutions Architect. The students examined our Internet of Things Fishtank, played Xbox and used the Kinect to understand motion capture of movement and worked real time on our PPI.

Making Technology Accessible for Everyone

After lunch, we had a terrific presentation via Skype by Patrick Maher, Director of Civic Engagement, SPR Consulting. SPR is a Microsoft Partner and Pat suffered a spinal cord injury during college. In addition to his very motivational personal story, Pat emphasized the great opportunities for careers in technology for people with disabilities. Pat runs a meet up group called ITKAN, which supports people with disabilities in the Technology field.

Making Technology Accessible for Everyone

He also showed an amazing video which I highly recommend:


To learn more about Microsoft’s investment in accessibility, see how our products have built-in accessibility features.

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