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A portrait of Cynthia smiling slightly at three-quarters view and gazing upwards. She is seen from the elbows up, wearing a bright crimson blouse and holding her white cane. Behind her are hints of a bustling Pittsburgh, PA street.I am a human-computer interaction researcher. I study the impact of sociotechnical systems, including novel AI-powered experiences, on people with disabilities. My research findings inform inclusive and ethically-designed processes and experiences.

As of September,

2022 I’m a Senior Research Scientist in Google Research’s Responsible AI and Human Centered Technology organization. Previously, I was a postdoctoral researcher in Carnegie Mellon University’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute and a researcher at Apple, Inc. I received my Ph.D. from the University of Washington’s Human Centered Design and Engineering Department and I interned at Microsoft Research. I received my BA in Psychology with minors in African American Studies and Women’s Studies from the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

I have received funding from a Microsoft Research Dissertation Grant and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. Eight of my co-authored papers at the ACM’s ASSETS, CHI, and DIS conferences have received awards.

I update this website minimally. Open access links to all of my publications and recorded presentations are on my CV, which is frequently updated and structured to be very accessible, and with versions hosted online or downloadable. Read my About page for a few things that are not on my CV.

Current Research Focuses

  1. The intersection of AI, novel accessibility solutions, and bias. Recent outcomes include:
  • position paper, a technical report, and podcasts (e.g., Radical AI and The Good Roboton AI, bias, and disability. They argue for cautious AI deployments and for more attention to potential disability bias in AI systems more generally, and attention to the ways AI-powered accessibility solutions may also be harmful. These topics remain under-discussed in popular AI-bias discourse.
  • This publicationand this WWDC talk (excerpt starting at 13:12) on bias and ethics concerns around ML generating descriptions of people in images. While they are intended to make photos accessible to blind people who cannot see them, ML-generated image descriptions may also perpetuate documented race, gender, and disability-based bias.
  • This publicationon ethical concerns related to interactions among people with disabilities and semiautonomous delivery robots in public space.
  1. Cultivating accessible computing research labs and design studios which invite, celebrate, and incorporate disability culture. Some outcomes include:

Recent Events

June 2022: Congratulations to Frank Elavsky who presented his first lead-author paper as a Ph.D. student! He invited me to help write his open source Chartability principles and heuristics for evaluating the accessibility of digital data experiences up for the EuroVIS academic community.

May 2022: I presented a talk called Centering People in Information Translation to Stanford’s Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis, and discussant Professor Roanne Kantor followed with a fantastic and provocative response. The talk overviewed my research on the politics of human and machine-written image descriptions of race, gender, and disability, and recent art and activist commentary and futuring on human-centered approaches to ever-automating information translation. Professor Kantor’s response enriched my talk by bringing in connections to disability law, digital media history, and feminist theory.

May 2022: Kelly Mack did an awesome job leading a team of 8 researchers and presenting our resulting honorable mentioned CHI 2022  paper! We interviewed researchers and community organizers to learn how they currently host accessible human-centered studies and events. Here is the video presentation. Here is a  list of tips we learned that you can apply to run your own accessible research. Here is a  blog version of the academic paper. Pay attention to the acknowledgements and participants as some consented to be named, and support their work as you can. TL/DR accessibility is a research specialization but all research should be accessible. Anticipating accessibility and openness to flexibility smooths the inevitable last-minute adjustments that become necessary on mixed-ability teams.

April 2022: Congratulations to Candace Williams who published her first lead-author paper as a Ph.D. student to the Web4All conference! It describes her Apple internship project on two important facets of image accessibility–the prevalence and quality of recently-published computing paper figure alt text, several of which describe complex compositions of charts and images of systems,  and insights from interviews with computing paper authors on opportunities to improve paper and figure-creation tools.


Email: clb5590@gmail.com
Follow me: @clb5590 on Twitter
Connect with me on LinkedIn
Read my Google Scholar page

This website is not endorsed by any entity; it is a personal account of my professional activities