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BBL Speaker Series: I + Agency + AAC: Identifying Challenges and Opportunities for Design

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Speaker: Stephanie Valencia Valencia, PhD, Assistant professor, College of  Information Studies, University of Maryland

Location: HBK 2105 and Zoom

Abstract: Agency and communication are essential to our personal development, we advance our individual goals by communicating them. Nonetheless, agency is not a fixed property. Many individuals who use speech-generating devices to communicate encounter social constraints and barriers that reduce their agency in conversation including how much they can say, how they can say it, and when they can say it. In this BBL talk, I will argue how using agency as a design framework can serve us to generate accessible communication experiences and center the perspectives of people with disabilities in the design process of new technology. Through empirical studies and co-design with people with disabilities I explore how different technology materials can support their agency in conversation. In doing so, I will present accessible design methods as well as new design guidelines for augmented communication using automated transcription, physical artefacts, and AI-based language generative tools.

Bio: Stephanie Valencia, PhD,  is an assistant professor at the College of  Information Studies at the University of Maryland. Dr. Valencia is a Human-Computer Interaction researcher who builds accessible technologies that are grounded in behavioral theory, co-designed with people with disabilities, and deployed to users for impact. Her research focuses on designing for accessibility and conversational agency when using assistive technologies such as augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices that support communication for users with motor and speech disabilities. Dr. Valencia uses participatory design to explore how different design materials such as AI and non-anthropomorphic robots can be used to create agency-increasing AAC systems and builds and deploys these systems to evaluate their impact. Dr. Valencia received her PhD and MS in Human-Computer Interaction at Carnegie Mellon University and a BS in Biomedical Engineering from EIA and CES university in Colombia. She has been awarded a Postgraduate Fellowship at the Yale School of Medicine, the MIT Technology Review Top 35 Innovators Under 35 Award in Latin America, and the Ada Lovelace fellowship from the Open Source Hardware Association.