Trace Center at 50 – Accomplishments, lessons learned, and future directions

Dr. J. Bern Jordan, Dr. Hernisa Kacorri, Dr. Jonathan Lazar, Dr. Amanda Lazar & Dr. Gregg Vanderheiden

(Sponsored by Trace Research and Development Center)

2021 Disability Summit
April 14, 2021 – 3:10 PM-3:55 PM


This year marks the 50th anniversary for the UMD’s Trace Center. The Center’s work can be found in every computer and mobile device today – as well as voting machines, airport kiosks, ticket machines and numerous assistive technologies including those used by Steven Hawking. In 2016 the Trace Center moved from the University of Wisconsin-Madison to the UMD iSchool to join up with the accessibility and inclusive design researchers here to chart directions for the next 50 years. This presentation will survey the work of the last 50 years from Augmentative Communication ( a term coined by Trace Center researchers) through computer access and inclusive design of ICT. The work includes research, product development, standards, guidelines and policy. Trace research can be found for example in every accessibility standard and regulation to date (Web, ICT, and Telecom in the US and international) as well as in free and open-source accessibility tools to support them. The presentation will include lessons learned in working with disability groups, governments and over 50 companies. It will also review the Center’s current and planned research directions including work to re-imagine accessibility policy and practice.


Dr. J. Bern Jordan (he/his)


Dr. Jordan is an assistant research scientist at the Trace R&D Center, UMD. His work has included the development of techniques for cross-disability access to public ICT, analysis and contributions to accessibility standards and regulations, the development of hands-on accessibility training workshops, and research into automatically generating personal, one-sizefits-one interfaces. Dr. Jordan has worked with a dozen companies on making their products more accessible and has 10 granted and pending patents on accessibility of kiosks and other ICT products.

Dr. Hernisa Kacorri (she/her)


Dr. Kacorri is an Assistant Professor in the College of Information Studies with an affiliate appointment in Computer Science. She is a member of both the Trace R&D Center and the HCIL Her research focuses on data-driven technologies that can benefit the disability community, with an emphasis on rigorous, user-based experimental methodologies to assess impact. Hernisa is a recipient of a Mina Rees Dissertation Fellowship in the Sciences, and both ACM ASSETS and IEEE WACV best paper awards. She has been recognized by the Rising Stars in EECS program of CMU/MIT.

Dr. Jonathan Lazar (he/him)


Dr. Lazar is a professor in the College of Information Studies (iSchool) at the University of Maryland, where he is the incoming director of the Trace Research and Development Center, the nation’s oldest research center on technology and disability, and is part of the Human-Computer Interaction Lab (HCIL). Professor Lazar has authored or edited 13 books, including Research Methods in Human-Computer Interaction, Ensuring Digital Accessibility Through Process and Policy, and Disability, Human Rights, and Information Technology. He is the recipient of the 2020 ACM SIGACCESS Award for Outstanding Contributions to Computing and Accessibility.

Dr. Amanda Lazar (she/her)


Dr. Lazar is an assistant professor in the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park. She received her PhD from the University of Washington in the Department of Biomedical Informatics and Medical Education. Her research examines the design of technology for older adults – and in particular, older adults with dementia – to support social interaction and engagement in activities. Her work is supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR).

Dr. Gregg Vanderheiden (he/him)


Dr. Vanderheiden has worked in technology and disability for 50 years (since 1971). He was a pioneer in Augmentative Communication (a term he coined in the 1970’s) and in cross-disability access to ICT. His work is found in every Windows and Macintosh computer, iOS and Android phone or tablet, US Automated Postal Stations, Amtrak ticket machines and many other products you encounter daily. Most of the initial access features in both Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac operating systems came from work of his research group. Dr. Vanderheiden created the first accessibility guidelines for computers and software (‘85), consumer products (‘91) and the web (’95)– and co-chaired both WCAG 1.0 and 2.0 working groups. He has worked with over 50 companies and numerous consumer groups and government advisory & planning committees, including the FCC, the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA), the United States Access Board and The White House. He has received over 35 awards for his work. Dr. Vanderheiden holds a BS in Electrical Engineering, MS in Biomedical Engineering, and Ph.D. in Technology in Communication and Child Development from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.