Empowering People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities through Cognitively Accessible Visualizations

Keke Wu, Danielle Albers Szafir

Room: 105

2023-10-22T22:00:00ZGMT-0600Change your timezone on the schedule page
Exemplar figure, described by caption below
The teaser figure illustrates two immediate objectives of cognitively accessible visualizations. Namely, designing for empathetic and therapeutic storytelling, and for multi-sensory and culturally relevant data experiences. The figure illustrates the idea in a creative manner: the four key words are laid out in two separate word clouds. In the middle, the three letters, V, I, S are artistically illustrated with light bulbs and a brain icon to represent cognitive diversity and creativity.

Data has transformative potential to empower people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD). However, conventional data visualizations often rely on complex cognitive processes, and existing approaches for day-to-day analysis scenarios fail to consider neurodivergent capabilities, creating barriers for people with IDD to access data and leading to even further marginalization. We argue that visualizations could be an equalizer for people with IDD to participate in data-driven conversations. Drawing on preliminary research findings and our experiences working with people with IDD and their data, we introduce and expand on the concept of cognitively accessible visualizations, unpack its meaning and roles in increasing IDD individuals' access to data, and discuss two immediate research objectives. Specifically, we argue that cognitively accessible visualizations should support people with IDD in personal data storytelling for effective self-advocacy and self-expression; and balance novelty and familiarity in data design to accommodate cognitive diversity and promote inclusivity.