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Deborah Fels is shaping inclusive design

Deborah Fels understands that when it comes to learning, one design does not fit all. That's especially true for autistic children, who can have trouble processing the many simultaneous sights and sounds of a classroom. Her research at Ryerson has led to the creation of Webmoti, a multimedia, multi-sensory system that lets autistic students attend class remotely while controlling the type and amount of sensory input they receive.

Created through a multi-disciplinary team of academic and industry partners, Webmoti includes an in-class camera controlled by the student and an Emoti-Chair, an audio-tactile display chair developed by Fels at Ryerson that allows people to “feel” sound through vibrations. This technology allows students to replace sound with vibration or visualization so they can get information in the way they’re most comfortable.

Fels focuses on inclusivity in design and making technologies more accessible to audiences that may typically be excluded. Her goal is to make design a more thoughtful practice, with inclusivity incorporated right from the start instead of as an afterthought. Ultimately, her research will greatly improve accessibility in the areas of entertainment, communication, education, law, gaming and health.

Deborah Fels, P.Eng., PhD.
Professor, Information Technology Management, Ted Rogers School of Management
Director, Inclusive Design and Media Centre

Photo: Will Pemulis