Dr. Deborah Fels: Ensuring Inclusivity in New Technology

Dr. Deborah Fels
Photo by Mark Blinch

Dr. Deborah Fels
Professor, Ted Rogers School of Information Technology Management
Director, Inclusive Media & Design Centre

New products and applications are constantly being developed to change the way we socialize, access, share, and experience information. As technology continues to advance and become further integrated into our daily lives, how can we ensure that all members of society are included in its design and implementation?

As director of the Inclusive Media & Design Centre (IMDC) at the Ted Rogers School of Management, Dr. Deborah Fels works to develop accessible technology for all, by addressing the ways in which inclusive media can be used to gain access to and participation in society, particularly with respect to entertainment, digital and Internet applications.

“There are many issues involving access to technology for people with disabilities that have been identified by people in the community,” says Dr. Fels. “As researchers with expertise in human-computer interaction, engineering and creative expression, we believe that we can make a contribution to studying and finding solutions to some of these issues.”

Dr. Fels’ research touches on many of the most relevant emerging technologies of our current age, with a specific focus on inclusive media. From ensuring traditional media like television, film, music, and theatre are accessible for enjoyment and enrichment through vibration, to providing sign language access to the Internet and video blogging platforms, Dr. Fels’ research opens opportunities for participation in arts and communications. Developing accessible customer feedback technology ensures all users are able to be participatory consumers. Dr. Fels also researches mixed-reality gaming for older adults, gamification in education and accessible research methods. Dr. Fels works with graduate and undergraduate students with disabilities (as well as students and staff without identified disabilities), who act as developers, researchers and participants in the IMDC lab.

Dr. Fels’s innovative and interdisciplinary approach to research has led to numerous awards, including the 2015 Research Collaboration Award from the Office of the Vice-President, Research & Innovation, at Ryerson University. Her research has also been supported extensively by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), Canada Council for the Arts and external industry partnerships, leading to over 50 grants for close to $5 million in funding.

This research profile originally appeared in Think, Act, Connect: Ted Rogers School of Management Research Report 2015. To read the full report, visit Research at the Ted Rogers School of Management.