Build a Better Book

Tom Yeh

Abstract: “Something that’s accessible isn’t just for blind people,” said Atzin, “but for everyone, race, gender, …  to enjoy [what] we’re making” Atzin, a 13-year-old girl, is one of more than 2,000 teens who has participated in a Build a Better Book workshop to learn about Maker technologies by designing accessible books for children with visual impairments. In this talk, I give my account of how a human computer interaction (HCI) research project started in 2013 with my two first-year graduate students has grown into a nationwide phenomenon with partner organizations (e.g., libraries, schools, museums) in more than 13 states. I describe three approaches we take to bringing in more people to build “better” books for blind children: (1) capacity---by developing better tools, we can lower the technical barriers for people to participate, (2) motivation---by better understanding the various stakeholder groups (e.g., librarians, teachers, volunteers, engineers) using HCI research methods, we can more effectively motivate and leverage the unique knowledge and skills of each group, and (3) empathy---by engaging people early (i.e., teens) in empathy-driven Maker experiences, we can help them develop sensitivity toward others as they become future STEM professionals.