Welcome to the 2020 XR Access Symposium

July 20-21, 2020 | Virtual Event

At the 2020 XR Access Symposium, we reviewed the state of the XR field, celebrated a year of progress toward accessibility, and took steps toward a more inclusive future. Thank you to all who joined us for this event!

About the Symposium

About the Symposium

A Brief History

The XR Access Initiative kicked off in Summer 2019 with the first XR Access Symposium. Over 120 technologists, advocates, researchers, and industry leaders joined us for talks, demos, and working group sessions that generated actionable plans for making XR more accessible.

For the past year, that’s been our mission – to ensure that as XR technologies become more pervasive in our work, school, and social lives, they’ll be designed and developed to be accessible by and for people with disabilities.

Where We’re Going

At the 2020 XR Access Symposium, we reviewed the community’s progress over the past year, highlighted the latest advancements in XR accessibility research and implementation, and laid out concrete steps we can all take toward a more accessible future.

The Symposium includes a series of virtual talks, tech demos, and breakout sessions for working groups and researchers, spread over two days. We also welcomed research presentations from the XR Access Workshop at IMX 2020 to the Symposium. You can find more information about the agenda, speakers, and breakout sessions below.

Transcripts of the Symposium sessions from Day 1 are available for download below. We’re also creating a comprehensive report of the proceedings, including the Day 2 breakouts, which will be linked here when available.

XR Access Symposium Transcript – Welcome & Intro

XR Access Symposium Transcript – Furness & Curtis-Davidson

XR Access Symposium Transcript – May & Asuncion

XR Access Symposium Transcript – Hawley & Goldberg

XR Access Symposium Transcript – Ward & Boyle

XR Access Symposium Transcript – Orero & Azenkot

XR Access Symposium Transcript – Research Talks

XR Access Symposium Transcript – Mozilla Hubs Intro

XR Access Symposium Transcript – Day 1 Wrap-Up

Stay Connected

Stay in the loop during the Symposium with the #XRAccess and #XRAccess2020 hashtags on Twitter. If you’ve registered, you’ll receive an email with a link to join the Symposium Slack channel, where you can connect directly with other Symposium attendees.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn. You can also stay in touch with us after the Symposium by signing up for our newsletter.

Day 1 | July 20 | The Big Picture

All times in EST

11:00AM | Welcome Remarks

11:20AM | Conversation with Tom Furness

11:40AM | Conversation with Matt May

12:00PM | Break

12:10PM | Conversation with Erin Hawley

12:30PM | Conversation with Joel Ward

12:50PM | Conversation with Pilar Orero

1:10PM | Break & Demos

1:30PM | Research Talks

2:00PM | Exploratory VR Experience

3:00PM | Concluding Discussion

Day 2 | July 21 | Down to Business

All times in EST

11:00AM | Welcome & Stage-Setting

11:15AM | Breakout Session 1

12:15PM | Break

12:30PM | Breakout Session 2

1:30PM | Break

1:40PM | Wrap-up & Goal Setting

Speakers

Tom Furness

Dr. Tom Furness

Professor & International Director, Human Interface Technology Laboratory, University of Washington

In conversation with Bill Curtis-Davidson, Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology

Dr. Tom Furness is a professor, inventor, and entrepreneur who has worked continuously on the development of virtual reality technology for 54 years and earned the title “Grandfather of Virtual Reality.”

Erin Hawley

Erin Hawley

Writer & Accessibility Consultant, The Geeky Gimp

In conversation with Larry Goldberg, Verizon Media

Erin Hawley is a writer, gamer, vlogger, and freelance accessibility consultant. She has worked with Microsoft on the Xbox Adaptive Controller, as well as Logitech, EA Games, Adobe, and other companies to ensure their products and messaging are inclusive. She has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, and other media outlets. Erin lives in Keyport, New Jersey, and you can find writing and video content at https://www.geekygimp.com.

Pilar Orero

Dr. Pilar Orero

Professor, Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona

In conversation with Shiri Azenkot, Cornell Tech

Dr. Orero is a media accessibility expert and is the co-founder of the Media Accessibility Platform (mapaccess.org). She is a leader and participant in numerous EU-based projects on media accessibility, standards in immersive environments, and accessible captioning.

Tom Furness

Joel Ward

Technology Specialist, Booz Allen Hamilton

In conversation with Devin Boyle, Partnership on Education and Accessible Technology

Joel Ward has over 20 years of experience in technology design, development, and management. He currently works for Booz Allen Hamilton as a Technology Specialist and AR Product Manager, where he focuses on immersive technologies like augmented and mixed reality and devices like the Microsoft HoloLens and Oculus Quest. He also leads the Hardware Devices group for the XR Access initiative, a community organization that is driving accessibility into the XR world.

Matt May

Matt May

Head of Inclusive Design, Adobe

In conversation with Jennison Asuncion, Head of Accessibility Engineering Evangelism at LinkedIn

Matt May is Adobe’s head of inclusive design. His work includes integrating more equitable design practices across every aspect of the Adobe user experience, training and mentoring the Adobe Design team, and advocating principles of accessibility and inclusive design to the public at large. He lives in Seattle.

Demos

Head over to the Symposium Demos page to view video demos from research teams and companies creating the latest in accessible XR technology, or using XR to make the world more accessible. Questions about a demo? You can find the demo providers in Slack during the afternoon break on Day 1.

Visit the Demo Page

Exploratory XR Experience

From 2:00-3:00pm on Day 1, we’re bringing you an exploratory VR experience in Mozilla Hubs. Hubs is a virtual reality collaboration and socialization platform created by Mozilla, the creators of Firefox. As a new medium, there are many challenges to overcome to make tools like Hubs accessible.

In this session, we encourage you to explore Hubs and provide feedback on your experience. Through our partnership with Mozilla, your feedback may result in direct improvements to Hubs. To learn more, get started, and provide feedback, click the button on the right to visit our Hubs instruction manual.

Get Started with Mozilla Hubs

Research Talks

Live Audio Descriptions for 360-Degree Video

James Herndon, Equal Entry

This presentation will highlight how live audio descriptions can be incorporated into 360-degree immersive video.

XR Meets Real Accessibility: Understanding XR Accessibility User Requirements

Joshue O’Connor, W3C

Little is understood about the needs of people with disabilities and challenges in XR. To outline and address these challenges the Research Questions Task Force (RQTF) at W3C have published ‘XR Accessibility User Requirements’ that aims to present some of these user needs and potential requirements.

“I’ll drive, you shoot!” – Making Arbitrary SteamVR Games More Accessible Through Co-Piloting – A Preliminary Study

Felix Thiel, University College London

We demonstrate a way to make virtual reality more accessible. The player with the head-mounted display can be assisted by a second person, a co-pilot, who can take over some controls. Our prototype works with any SteamVR game. In a pilot study, we explore player experiences of piloting or co-piloting.

Framework for Accessibility of Immersive Environments

Jee-In Kim, Konkuk University

People with disabilities have specific needs and preferences to perform tasks in a VR (Virtual Reality) world. Unless the input and the output modalities match their needs and preferences, they cannot perform the tasks properly in VR worlds. The ISO/IEC 24756 framework is applied to the accessibility of VR.

Symposium Breakout Groups

Breakout Group meetings took place on Day 2 of the Symposium. These groups are where the work of XR Access happens: where leaders, advocates, engineers, and researchers dig in to explore the future of XR.

Breakout Session 1

Tuesday, July 21st, 11:15am-12:15pm ET

User Needs: Hardware Devices, Inputs, & Accessories

This breakout will explore user needs related to the accessibility of hardware devices and accessories. We’ll consider the needs of people with disabilities as they set up or configure devices, operate physical operable controls, access and use sensors, attach and use accessories and embodied inputs, etc. Participants will discuss work-in-progress from the XR Access Community as well as share industry practices, research and lessons learned.

User Needs: Captioning & Subtitles

This breakout will explore user needs related to the accessibility of audio content in XR. We’ll consider the needs of people who are deaf or hard of hearing as they access audio content employed in virtual/augmented environments, immersive video, communication services, and media objects. Participants will discuss work-in-progress from both the XR Access Community and the W3C Immersive Captioning Community Group, as well as share industry practices, research, and lessons learned.

User Needs: Audio Description/No or Low Vision Access

This breakout will explore user needs related to the accessibility of visual content in XR. We’ll look at the needs of people who are blind or who have low vision as they access virtual scenes/environments, virtual user interfaces/controls, communication services, and visual media objects. Participants will discuss work-in-progress from both the XR Access Community as well as share industry practices, research, and lessons learned.

User Needs: Neurodiversity/Cognitive Diversity

This breakout will explore the user needs of people who are neurodiverse in accessing and using XR applications. Participants will discuss work-in-progress from both the XR Access Community as well as share industry practices, research, and lessons learned.

User Needs: Mobility / Motricity

This breakout will explore the user needs of people who have mobility or dexterity impairments.  Specifically, the group will explore ways to access and navigate virtual scenes/environments, provide input, and operate virtual user interfaces/controls. Participants will discuss work-in-progress from both the XR Access Community as well as share industry practices, research, and lessons learned.

User Needs: XR Communication / Social / Meetings

This breakout will explore the user needs of people with disabilities in communication / social / collaboration/meetings type XR applications.  Specifically, the group will explore ways to be co-present, communicate, and collaborate in multiple modalities including considerations for input, output. Participants will discuss work-in-progress from both the XR Access Community as well as share industry practices, research, and lessons learned.

Breakout Session 2

Tuesday, July 21st, 12:30-1:30pm ET

Platform: AI, Machine Vision/Learning & Enabling Systems

This breakout will explore how AI is being used in the context of XR platforms, and explore both the opportunities as well as risks for people with disabilities.  Risks related to the design of AI-enabled systems used in XR systems — namely privacy, ethics and bias – will be discussed. Participants from the XR Access Community can share any work-in-progress, industry practices, research and lessons learned.

Platform/User Needs: OS / A11y Object Models / APIs

This breakout will explore technical concepts related to XR platform accessibility object models or accessibility APIs.  Such object models and APIs will need to be developed further in order to support use cases like: assistive technologies (e.g. screen readers, voice control/input, etc.), transmodal user interactions, accessibility settings, and more. Participants will discuss work-in-progress from the XR Access Community as well as share industry practices, research, and lessons learned.

Industry: XR in Employment

This breakout will explore how XR is being – or will be used – in future workplaces, including as a tool employers, employees, and job seekers. Participants will discuss both the potential for XR to support mission-critical functions, increase productivity, and remove barriers to employment, and also the challenges for inclusion of people with disabilities to help drive our upcoming community work.

 Industry: XR in Teaching & Learning

This breakout will explore how XR is being – or will be used – in teaching and learning, and discuss aspects of teaching students about XR inclusive design and accessibility. Participants will discuss both the potential for XR in teaching and learning, as well as discuss challenges for inclusion of people with disabilities to help drive our upcoming community work.

 Industry: Surveys, Outreach Events & Engagement

This breakout will explore ways to engage the larger community through a combination of activities aimed at furthering the momentum in XR Accessibility. These include conducting surveys, conducting outreach events and engaging the wider community through different ways of engagement (e.g. hack-a-thons, design workshops, boot camps, etc.).

Industry: Promoting Inclusive Design in XR Orgs

This breakout will explore how organizations involved with designing or developing XR technologies can promote inclusive design and advance accessibility in their offerings.  Participants will discuss the ways to engage people with disabilities and explore putting in place inclusive design or accessibility programs to help advance XR accessibility in the ecosystem.

Supporters

The 2020 XR Access Symposium is made possible by these supporters.

universal access icon
VR headset
VR headset

Accessibility accommodations for the XR Access Symposium are generously supported by Oculus from Facebook.

Oculus from Facebook Logo