Congratulations to Stacy Branham, Assistant Professor of Informatics at the University of California, Irvine (UCI), for winning the inaugural Digital Accessibility Innovator Award! This award, presented at UCI Celebration of Teaching 2022, recognizes Stacy’s commitment to advancing digital accessibility both at UCI and in the wider community.

About the Award

The Digital Accessibility Innovator Award was created by the UCI IT Accessibility Workgroup (ITAW) to honor an individual who has exemplified UCI’s culture of inclusion and accessibility through their actions. The selection criteria for this award evaluates nominees’ ability to do the following:

  • Inspire others to create a more inclusive UCI by significantly increasing awareness of digital accessibility on campus
  • Make core campus technology such as websites, course materials, and digital media accessible through innovation and direct action
  • Serve as a resource for the UCI community by sharing the latest developments in digital accessibility
  • Weave digital accessibility into UCI’s organizational culture through policy creation or other administrative action

About the IT Accessibility Workgroup (ITAW)

The ITAW was established in August 2015 by Kian Colestock, Associate Vice Chancellor and Chief Information Officer for UCI’s Office of Information Technology (OIT). The workgroup was created with the goal of increasing and enhancing the accessibility of UCI’s electronic communications and IT environment and is tasked with implementing UC policy IMT-1300 (Information Technology Accessibility). By supporting IT accessibility, UCI helps ensure that as broad a population as possible is able to access, benefit from, and contribute to its electronic programs and services. 

The ITAW consists of a diverse array of members from across UCI’s campus, with each member leveraging their specialized skills and expertise to facilitate the implementation of the policy across campus. Some of the workgroup’s current projects include developing a badging program for UCI students, faculty, and staff to demonstrate their commitment to digital accessibility; helping individuals and departments to use Siteimprove to improve the digital accessibility of their websites; exploring ways to support faculty in creating accessible digital course websites and materials; and creating awards for students, faculty, and staff who make substantial contributions to digital accessibility.

About Stacy Branham

In addition to her role as Assistant Professor of Informatics at UCI, Stacy also directs the INclusive Studio for Innovative Technology and Education and serves as a founding member of the Accessibility Research Collective. Stacy’s research investigates how technologies operate in social settings where one or more people have a disability, yielding actionable design guidance and proof of concept prototypes. Her recent and ongoing studies explore how technology can isolate, offend, and harm people with disabilities, as much as it has the potential to integrate and empower them when designed properly. Current themes in her work include: AI and bias, the potential of voice assistants to universalize access, and co-design that involves people with disabilities throughout the design process. 

Stacy’s work has been recognized by several Best Paper awards at top research conferences and has been supported by over $15 million from funding entities, including Jacobs Foundation, Toyota, Intel, and the National Science Foundation. In 2021, she received the NSF CAREER Award and was named one of the “Brilliant 10” rising STEM researchers by Popular Science.

Outside of research, Stacy showcases her dedication to inclusion and accessibility through her various endeavors. For instance, Stacy is particularly proud of her advising work with Ph.D., graduate, and undergraduate students with disabilities. She is also collaborating with the Dayle McIntosh Center to develop an independent study program to teach UCI students how to train blind community members to use touchscreen phones. Stacy is also currently working with the University of Washington to create a pipeline for undergraduate students with disabilities to enter computing careers. This includes hosting various panels to educate industry partners about inclusive hiring practices and work environments for people with disabilities. 

Aside from her work with college students, Stacy is excited to teach a younger generation of students about the importance and fundamentals of digital accessibility. Stacy is currently working with a computer science teacher at the local Woodbridge High School to develop a curriculum around accessible computing. This curriculum will be integrated into Woodbridge High’s AP computer science course over the next five years. 

While these are just a few of the ways that Stacy supports and advances digital accessibility, her various accolades, research, and comprehensive body of work demonstrate her genuine commitment to making a difference in this space. And this is why the UCI Accessibility Committee felt she was more than deserving of the first-ever Digital Accessibility Innovator Award.

Stacy was recognized at this year’s UCI Celebration of Teaching Awards ceremony held on Thursday, April 21, 2022. We invite you to join us in congratulating Stacey and the rest of the 2022 Celebration of Teaching award winners and Dean’s Honorees by viewing this series of celebratory videos.