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At UMD, I am advised by Dr. Amanda Lazar, who specializes in critical research towards how technologies can support aging individuals. I am a member of Dr. Lazar's lab (The Health, Aging & Technology Lab), the Human Computer Interaction Lab (HCIL) and the TRACE R&D center, all of which have conducted seminal work in computing, and accessibility. 

Prior to my doctoral studies, I worked with Dr. Robin Brewer at the University of Michigan's iSchool, exploring older adults' interactions with voice based ICTs. During my Masters in HCI at DePaul University, I worked with Dr. Sheena Erete & Dr. Denise Nacu, exploring the intersections of  technology, learning and social computing. 

Research interests
Equitable access to widely implemented technologies



Email me at | poojau [AT] umd [DOT] edu

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Widely implemented Information & Communication Technologies (ICTs, e.g. smartphones, voice assistants, PCs, search interfaces, internet tools) are positioned today as "intuitive" technologies with the potential to, or already providing democratic access to information. Yet, diverse groups of users (e.g. older adults, emerging tech users, non-visual users, users with disabilities) have been reported to be on the peripheries of such a promised claim of access over time. The intuition in using such technologies appears in a normative type of user, an expert user who uses technology at the workplace and home. Using an investigative method of comparison of diverse users' behavior with normative user behavior, differences in ICT use emerging from ecological contexts; historic, socio- economic, are made to appear as problems within users - a lack of proficiency, digital affinity or ability. But, history of research on technology use shows a sampling problem in considering only the normative user type in research around users' model forming. Instead of asking what models users typically form (since there can be no singular model), we can ask how users form models of systems drawing from their variable ecological contexts? In other words, how can technology development processes consider user's subjective/local experience with systems, and their subjective models of systems? Finally, what does it mean for intelligent systems and tools that form ICTs today - search & retrieval, recommendation, operating systems etc. 


 I draw on theoretical frameworks and empirical methods in Human Computer Interaction (HCI), Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW), Cognitive science and Sociology. I study diverse user groups, and use mixed method approaches to situate their thought processes in learning and using  technology within their diverse contexts.  

Anchor 2
A sketch diagram showing a user skimming through audio output of search result headings and descriptions
A diagram comparing how sighted users visually skim search result page, and how screen reader users skim-hear audio results
This image is a figure from a project accepted as a CHI'20 late breaking work. It shows the pathway followed by users in using a search engine to explore information. The image has an illustration of how sighted searchers may visually explore information on a search results page, observe color and sizes used to indicate headings and links, skim information, and follow selections to either conduct new searches or enter a search result.
This image shows an illustration of exploration pathways followed by Blind searchers in using a search engine to explore information on a topic. The illustration shows how Blind searchers using screen readers may explore headings first, delving into links within headings to gather more cues at first. In a second skimming of the same page, they may remember key results by order and identify relevant search results for which they may explore the description text. Finally, the illustration shows how screen reader users may follow some relevant links to explore websites, and either get back to the search results page to follow up on the other relevant results, or use the cues gathered such as keywords to conduct more searches. This process is different than the one followed by sighted users because of how the graphical search system is inherently built for sighted exploration. This shows the constructive tactics used by blind searchers despite the inherently visual system.

Figures: Study exploring how sighted and blind users of technology (using visual vs. non visual modalities of interaction with systems) transact with web search engines with different models of use (CHI '20)

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