Here are all of 2017 UW Disability Studies Program AWARDS recipients & their projects.


Dennis Lang Student Awards:

Eze Klarnet, senior, Mechanical Engineering, and Jessie Zhang, senior, Informatics

Recognizing Jessie & Eze as scholars, activists, and long-time student leaders in disability justice.


Pamela Yee Award for Disability Studies & Gender Studies:

Ronnie Thibault, Interdisciplinary Individual PhD Program


Harlan Hahn Endowment Fund for Staff & Faculty:

Jose Alaniz, Slavic Languages & Literature

Heather Evans, Sociology

Heather Feldner, Mechanical Engineering

Mark Harniss, Rehabilitation Medicine

Ellery Russian, Physical Therapy

Harlan Hahn Endowment Fund for Students:

Danielle Bragg, Computer Science & Engineering, PhD

Ann Luetzow, Social Work, MSW

Andrea Mazzario, Social Work, MSW

Carlyn Mueller & Aditi Rajendran, College of Education, PhDs

John R. Porter, Human Centered Design & Engineering, PhD

Ronnie Thibault, Interdisciplinary Individual Graduate School, PhD

Annuska Zolyomi, Information School, PhD

Project Descriptions:


is a multi-sensory artist, author, filmmaker and healthcare provider from Seattle. Russian is the author of The Ring of Fire Anthology (2014) and has published work in The Stranger, The Seattle Weekly, Gay Genius (2011) and The Collective Tarot (2008). Russian is a member of cartooning collective THE HAND, an Advisory Board Member for Seattle’s Short Run Comix & Arts Festival, a featured artist with Sins Invalid and dance company Light Motion, and Co-Director of the movie Third Antenna (2001). Russian has received support from Art Matters, the Jack Straw Foundation, the Seattle Office of Art and Culture, and the Harlan Hahn Award. ETRUSSIAN.COM  Project: I will attend and present at The Pacific Rim International Conference on Diversity and Disability 2017 hosted by the University of Hawaii.  The theme of this year’s conference is sustainability. I will present content from an updated version of my 2014 essay “Collective Access, Mutual Aid and the State: Caring for the needs of sick, disabled and elderly people in our communities – theory and practice”

Dr. Heather Feldner

is currently a postdoctoral research fellow in the University of Washington’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. After a long clinical career as a physical therapist, she received her PhD in Disability Studies in 2016 from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her research investigates the impact of traditional and alternative technologies on the experiences of disabled people and their families, and how physical and social environments, technology design, industry, and disability orientation influence those experiences. Heather is a member of Husky ADAPT (Accessible Design and Play Technology), a multidisciplinary collaborative working to create low-cost access solutions and promote inclusive design on a broader scale together with disabled people in the community. Project: The Harlan Hahn Endowment Fund will support the creation and delivery of a multidisciplinary technology design course curriculum that infuses disability studies content and encourages student activism within the science and engineering communities of UW and the disability communities of Seattle. Students will gain exposure to seminal disability studies scholarship about the social and complex embodiment models of disability, the history of disability discrimination and the Disability Rights Movement, and explore how disability studies can inform issues of accessibility and inclusive design that have been historically conceptualized within a medical model of disability. Each student will participate in a technology co-design project with a disabled community member serving as a consultant and project lead. Funding will also support the assessment of student attitudes and knowledge of disability studies principles prior to and after completing the course, as well as support dissemination of the course model and outcomes at a national engineering conference in 2018.

John Porter

is a PhD candidate in the Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering, advised by Dr. Julie Kientz. His work in the Computing for Healthy Living and Learning (CHiLL) lab emphasizes inclusive design and accessible human-computer interaction, with a dissertation focus on understanding and improving the accessibility of video games. Project: The Game Accessibility Metadata, Excellent! (GAME!) project is an effort to address inaccessibility in gaming by rejecting the model of the "disabled gamer" in favor of the "disabling game". It seeks to engage directly with gamers with impairments to learn about their play experiences, and identify the matches and mismatches between gameplay mechanics and their individual abilities, in order to create a metadata vocabulary that can be used to describe games. These descriptions will ultimately be usable by gamers to assess whether or not a game will work for them, thereby avoiding disabling experiences before they occur.

Annuska Zolyomi

does doctoral research exploring the lived experiences of youth and adults on the autism spectrum. As a Ph.D. student at the University of Washington Information School, her work lies at the intersection of the neurodiversity paradigm, access and composition of information, and the role of technology. Her passion for accessible Human-Computer Interaction began while working at Microsoft. Her roles as accessibility Program Manager and Product Planner required a deep engagement with user scenarios and technology requirements of people with vision, hearing, mobility, and cognitive differences. She earned a Masters from UW in Human Centered Design & Engineering. Project: This Harlan Hahn grant supports her research exploring the ways that neurodiverse teens and young adults construct and express identity. The motivation for this research is to examine emerging adulthood as a unique period of re-configuration of identity and social positioning. Research has shown that some neurodiverse individuals first receive their diagnosis of autism as adults. Other individuals identify as neurodiverse or autistic without an official diagnosis. The experience of neurodiverse women may include misdiagnosis, late diagnosis, and being considered a neurominority. This research uses co-design and participatory research approaches to engage with autistic emerging adults as we explore the ways identities are formulated in real life and through the use of technology.

Carlyn Mueller & Aditi Rajendran

is a doctoral student in Special Education, focusing on disability identity development and disability awareness in adolescents. Aditi Rajendran is a doctoral student in Educational Policy, Organizations, & Leadership, focused on community-engaged research and organizational leadership for racial equity. Project: Together, they will develop an online course on race and disability, including issues of intersectionality, educational contexts, and first person perspectives of people of color with disabilities.  

Danielle Bragg

is a PhD candidate in the Department of Computer Science & Engineering. Her research combines accessibility, human-computer interaction, and machine learning, and takes a data-driven approach to tackling societal problems. Her recent projects include a sign language dictionary to facilitate looking up signs, a trainable sound detector for deaf and hard-of-hearing users, and scripts tailored to modern screens to improve legibility for low-vision readers. Project: Worldwide, about 70 million Deaf people use a sign language as their first language, and in the US and Canada, American Sign Language (ASL) is the primary language of about half a million people. However, much of society and the technical world communicates through written text. This excludes many people from full participation, as sign languages lack a standard written form. In this project, we attempt to redesign ASL characters for modern screens in partnership with the Deaf community to improve character resemblance to live signs and make the notation easier to learn.

Andrea Mazzarino

is a master’s student at the University of Washington’s School of Social Work. She received her PhD in cultural anthropology from Brown University in 2010, and has spent the past seven years teaching and conducting research in academia and within human rights NGOs. As a research fellow with Human Rights Watch during 2012-2015, Andrea wrote three reports on the experiences of Russian children and adults living with disabilities, and advocated with colleagues for stronger rights protections for this population. Project: This research project investigates the experiences of people with disabilities in Russia who have transitioned out of orphanages and other institutions to live in Russian cities. The project will use semi-structured interviews with people in three Russian cities to highlight both promising practices and societal obstacles to full social inclusion.

Mark Harniss

is a Clinical Associate Professor in Rehabilitation Medicine with an interest in assistive technologies for people with disabilities. He teaches the core Disability Studies course DIS ST 433: Disability Law, Policy, and the Community. Project: The Harlan Hahn award will support him in attending two international conferences including the Global Research, Innovation, and Education in Assistive Technology (GREAT) Summit hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland and the 5th AfriNEAD Conference-Theme "Disability and Inclusion in Africa: The role of Assistive Technology" hosted by AfriNEAD and Kwama Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana. Attending these conferences in close succession will allow him to bring a disability studies perspective to the conferences and to compare/contrast perspectives on AT provision presented at each.

Ronnie Thibault

is working on her PhD in the Interdisciplinary Individual Graduate School PhD Program in the University of Washington Graduate School with support from The Departments of Geography, Communication, and Disability Studies. Ronnie is interested in topics of power, representation and difference and she draws on Critical Postcolonial Disability Studies, Feminist Geographies and The Digital Humanities to understand how humanitarian and awareness campaigns shape public assumptions about intellectual and developmental disabilities. Project: Harlan Hahn Endowment funds will support the technical and digital elements of Ronnie’s dissertation chapter, Mapping Space, Place, Scale and the Construction of Late Nineteenth/Early Twentieth Century Feeble-Minded Women in the United States, which will include a Google MyMap of historical and cultural artifacts, a stable and digital preservation platform, and a Scalar II academic website. 

Heather D. Evans

has a Ph.D. in Sociology and is a lecturer for the Disability Studies Program, Department of Sociology, and Law, Societies and Justice Program. Heather’s work examines the paradox of ‘invisible disability’, focusing on the everyday experiences and understandings of the law among people who have acquired non-apparent impairment as adults. Project: This award enables her to attend a conference to workshop a manuscript titled “‘Trial by Fire’: Forms of Impairment Disclosure & Implications for Disability Identity.”

Jose Alaniz

is an associate professor in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures and the Department of Comparative Literature (adjunct) at the University of Washington, Seattle. He has published one book on a disability studies-related theme: Death, Disability and the Superhero: The Silver Age and Beyond (University Press of Mississippi, 2014) and several articles, including “Standing Orders: Oracle, Disability and Retconning” in Disability in Comic Books and Graphic Narratives (Palgrave MacMillan, 2016). In 2014, he assumed the directorship of the University of Washington’s Disability Studies Program. Project: The Harlan Hahn Fund Award will support a visit to the UW by disabled Chicago comics artist Emil Ferris, author of the graphic novel My Favorite Thing is Monsters, to deliver a talk and take part in a major comics studies event, the International Comic Arts Forum conference, taking place at the UW in November, 2017.

Ann Luetzow

was an undergraduate student in 2012 when she founded the D Center: a d/Disability and d/Deaf cultural center at the UW. Since then, she has been working within the realm of social justice and is graduating from the UW School of Social Work with an MSW in June 2017. Project: This article aims to contribute to the field of Disability Studies by offering perspectives on the emerging movement of Disability Cultural Centers as spaces where Disability Studies theory and lived experiences converge on university campuses. Addressing the dearth of literature on the topic, this piece will explore some of the theoretical and practical foundations of Cultural Centers as well as offer case studies of existent Disability Cultural Centers in the United States.