Helen Petrie


My background and interest in the topic

I'm currently Professor of Human Computer Interaction in the Department of Computer Science at the University of York in the UK. 

I originally undertook a Phd in cognitive and experimental psychology before becoming interested in how people use computers and what makes them easy or difficult for people.  I then undertook further studies in Computer Science, so that I could understand the issues from the computer side of the human-computer divide.  Immediately after completing my Masters in Computing I became interested in the potential of computer technology for people with disabilities (I'm dyslexic myself and have an aunt who is profoundly deaf).

Cince then I've conducted research on the use of computers and new technologies for people with disabilities and older people. I've been involved in more than 30 British and international projects in this area and published extensively. I've advised numerous private and public sector organisations on the accessibility of the Web and other new technologies and on other issues related to technology and disability.

I'm currently part of a team setting up a network of organizations interested in the accessibility of the information society (the eAccess+ Network), funded by the European Commission and also in several projects on making culture more accessible to people with disabilities. 

Current motivation for the workshop

I think there are very interesting synergies between the problems encountered by people with disabilities in accessing print information (who are often referred to as "print disabled") and people who have difficulties with print for a variety of other reasons.  Just as within the different groups of people with disabilities, each group does not require a different solution, so the solutions may also have communalities across the different groups.  There is also a "strength in numbers" argument, the more people we are representing, the more likely that people who commission websites will sit up and listen.

Issues to discuss

  • What the range of problems?
  • What's the range of solutions?
  • What's the mapping between problems and solutions?
  • What is the smallest number of solutions that would help the largest number of people?

Issues to avoid

Talk about solutions rather than problems.