Autism and Technology

Beyond Assistance & Interventions

A workshop at #CHI2016 - Sat 7 May


Technologies designed for people with autism are often focused on their particular functional limitations. We argue that this ignores a rich design space in which technologies could play more meaningful and multi-facetted roles in the complex life-worlds of people with autism. This one-day workshop at CHI 2016 will explore how to go beyond technologies that narrowly focus on concepts of assistance or intervention.

During the day, we will discuss

  1. how autism is conceptualised as a disability and how this impacts on possible roles of technologies,
  2. how to unlock novel design spaces methodologically and
  3. how to evaluate the experiences of people with autism with technology.

The activities at the workshop will include focus groups on the questions above as well as practical design work. As an outcome, we will collaboratively develop a manifesto to draw attention to the gap we have identified and develop a research agenda to address it.

Read the full workshop proposal here for more details.

This workshop is organised by Chris Frauenberger, Judith Good and Narcís Parés.

Chris Frauenberger Judith Good Narcis Peres

Important Dates

  • Early acceptance round: 17 Dec 2015
  • Final acceptance round: 12 Jan 2016
  • Notifications within 3 days of deadlines
  • Camera ready: 12 Feb 2016
  • Workshop: Sat 7 May 2016

Call for Submissions

We invite position papers (up to four pages, SIGCH Extended Abstract Format) which engage with the workshop topic by considering the points described in the above paragraph, or bring in other relevant perspectives, including:

  • Theoretical, philosophical and ethical foundations of developing technology for autistic people
  • Design and evaluation methods
  • Case studies of technologies that have multi-faceted roles

Submissions should contain a short description of authors and their backgrounds, what authors see as their contribution to the workshop and what they hope to get out of participating.

Please email your submission to the workshop organisers before one of the following two deadlines. There are two rounds of acceptance: the early closing 17 Dec 2015 (12pm, CET), the final closing 12 Jan 2016 (12pm, CET). We will accept up to half of the maximum of participants (25) in the early acceptance round intended to enable participants to leverage 2015 Q4 budgets, not only 2016 budgets. The selection process will ensure that high quality contributions from a range of different perspectives are invited to participate.

At least one author of an accepted submission is required to attend the workshop, and participants must register for both the workshop and at least one day of the main conference.


The program for the day is provided in the table to the right. In the Introduction and Background activity, we aim to get to know each other. There is no need to prepare any material for this in advance. But it would help if you thought about your background, your motivation, current work and what you would want to get out of the day to make introductions more fluid.

There are three core activities which will have the form of focus sessions. These will be centred around (1) conceptions of disabilities and their impact on technology design, (2) ways and methods to design beyond traditional interventions and (3) how to assess the validity and success of such technologies. Each focus session will have the same structure: we will provide a short impulse talk (5min) as input before we break out into three groups. In these groups, a set of guiding questions and a moderator will help structure the discussions. After roughly 40min, we reconvene and present the group discussions to the others.

Accepted Workshop Papers

Towards the Design of an Assistive Technology Reducing Sensory Stimuli to Enhance Social Interaction for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder, F. Bonin and V. M. Gonzalez

Supervised Smart Spaces for ASD Children, M. Gelsomini

Putting Technology Design into the Hands of the Users with the ASCmeI.T. App, J. Good, N. Yuill, S. Parsons, M. Brosnan, L. Austin

Towards the Generalization of Social Skills for Learners with Autism Spectrum Disorder, M. MacFarland

Designing Digital Aids for Children with Autism in Pakistan: Challenges and Possibilities, J. Khattak, M. Munawar, U. Sajjad, S. Shahid

Virtual Reality for Autism: The Ethics of Positive Computing and the Design Potential of Representational Decoupling, S. Parsons, B. Bossavit

Connecting Tinkerers: Enriching Maker Communities through Neurodiversity, A. Zolyomi

Children with Autism and Technologies for Play, K. E. Ringland L. Boyd, J. K. Brown, G. R. Hayes

Autism Awareness and Technology- Based Intervention Research in China: the Good, the Bad, and the Challenging, T. Y. Tang, D. R. Flatla

Designing for Embodied Empowerment of people with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder, J. van Dijk, F. Verhoeven

Designing a Holistic At-Home Learning Aid for Autism, C. Voss, N. Haber, P. Washington, A. Kline, B. McCarthy, J. Daniels, A. Fazel, T. De, C. Feinstein, T. Winograd, D. Wall

The Freedom to Be Yourself: Technology-Themed Social Spaces for Young People with High-Functioning Autism, G. Wadley, S. Schutt, L. E. Ng


9:00 Welcome
9:15 Introductions and Background
10:00Focus Session: Autism as Disability, Concepts and Consequences
11:00Coffee Break
11:15Focus Session: Unlocking Design Spaces
12:15Quick Synopsis and Documentation in the plenum
12:30Lunch Break
13:30Focus Session: Measures of Success
14:30Coffee Break
15:00Synopsis and Discussion
16:00Fresh Air Break
16:15Manifesto, Future Agenda for Autism and Technology, Plans for Dissemination
17:00Workshop end


We do not yet know the exact room we are meeting in, but we will post it here as soon as we do.

After the workshop we plan to maybe go for a drink and have some food, it would be great to conclude the day in a more social setting.


Christopher Frauenberger. 2015a. Disability and Technology - A Critical Realist Perspective. In Proceedings of the 17th International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers & Accessibility. ACM Press, Lisbon, Portugal, 8. DOI:

Christopher Frauenberger. 2015b. Rethinking Autism and Technology. interactions 22, 2 (Feb. 2015), 57–59. DOI:

Jennifer Mankoff, Gillian R. Hayes, and Devva Kasnitz. 2010. Disability studies as a source of critical inquiry for the field of assistive technology. In Proceedings of the 12th international ACM SIGACCESS conference on Computers and accessibility (ASSETS ’10). ACM, Orlando, Florida, USA, 3–10. DOI:

Tom Shakespeare. 2014. Disability Rights and Wrongs Revisited (second endition ed.). Routledge, Oxon UK.