Hacking Disability: Accessible and Adaptable Tech


(Virtual) Tech Discussion - Hacking Disability: Accessible and Adaptable Tech

Monday, January 23, 7 PM

In 2015, after over a decade of programming, Dr. Naomi Saphra lost the ability to type. Confronted with a programmer's worst nightmare, she began the slow process of learning to dictate code. While customizing her environment and relying on configurations and scripts from a wider voice coding community, she simultaneously was confronted with paternalistic attitudes towards disabled people, attached to a framing of accessibility as "accommodation." Often, accommodations and products for disabled people have a rigid model for their use - but the needs of blind people are just as diverse as the needs of those with sight, and disabled people are perfectly capable of improving on the use model that they are offered. This talk addresses diabetic hackers, blind coders, and programmers with work injuries, and how they all rely on or avoid deliberately limiting corporate technologies. This is a story and a call for accessible systems that are open and adaptable, that allow people like Dr. Saphra the agency to improve the tools they use.

This is a shared program hosted by Tuckahoe Library and other libraries in Westchester County including Somers Library.

Presenter - Dr. Naomi Saphra is a postdoctoral researcher at NYU CILVR with Kyunghyun Cho and consults part time at MosaicML. Her interests relate to Natural Language Processing learning dynamics: how models learn to encode linguisting patterns or other structures, and how we can encode useful inductive biases into the training process. She has earned a PhD from the University of Edinburgh on Training Dynamics of Neural Language models, worked at Google and Facebook, and attended Johns Hopkins and Carnegie Mellon University. Outside of research, she plays roller derby under the name Gaussian Retribution, does standup comedy, and shepherds disabled programmers into the world of code dictation


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