Rakesh Babu, PhD

Rakesh Babu, PhD Contact Rakesh.Babu@envisionus.com 316-440-1519 Expertise And Interests
  • IT accessibility, usability, and utility
  • IT-enabled person-job fit and workplace inclusion
  • Verbal protocol analysis of blind technology users

Lead Accessibility Scientist

Dr. Rakesh Babu is the Lead Accessibility Scientist at ERI. Dr. Babu's research tries to understand and address the accessibility problems that individuals who are blind or visually impaired (BVI) face in leading a normal adult life. He employs methods such as think-aloud direct observations, exploratory field studies, Delphi panels, and content analysis to investigate questions on this topic. Dr. Babu is presently working on three projects in this direction. The first project tries to identify and remediate the access barriers that prevent organizations from effectively employing qualified job-seekers who are BVI. Once completed, this project will deliver a scientific process to audit the accessibility of the employment environment that could enable organizations to leverage the unique potential of employees who are BVI. The second project investigates how an individual who is BVI could manage a retail store effectively and independently. Once completed, this project will deliver a training model on performing retail management tasks with low or no visual perception. This project will also generate the knowledge to set up a retail store that enables retailers who are BVI to serve their customers effectively. The third project investigates the experiences of individuals who are BVI in retrieving information from a digital library (DL). Once completed, this project will deliver a set of design guidelines on accessibility, usability, and utility of digital libraries for users who are BVI. These three projects will develop research strategies that may be adapted to understand and address the accessibility barriers faced by other marginalized groups in society. 

Before joining Envision in 2018, he was a faculty member of the School of Information Studies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee for nearly 7 years. His primary duties in that position included maintaining active scholarship around a socially-relevant, interdisciplinary and applied research topic, teaching Information Systems courses, advising students, and participating in school governance activities. During this period, he also served in the board of directors at the Industries of the Blind-Milwaukee. Between 2009 and 2011,  he worked at IncludeAll AS (a research and innovation organization dedicated to audio-centric technology) as the Principal Research Scientist.

He has a Ph.D. in Information Systems from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a Masters in Management Information Systems from the Central Michigan University. He has driven a very active research agenda in the area of blind/visually impaired (BVI) accessibility for over 13 years. His work integrates research in Blind-Centered Computing, Information Systems, and the Cognitive Sciences to inform the development of IT artifacts and interventions for empowering blind citizens in the information society. Extramural funding from National Science Foundation, Research Council of Norway, Institute of Museum & Library Services, Online Computing Library Center, as well as multiple internal grants have supported different aspects of his research. Organizations including the National Industries of the Blind, National Federation of the Blind, the American Foundation for the Blind, and the International Federation of Library Associations & Institutions have partnered in these research endeavors. 

Dr. Babu's CV
Dr. Babu's Biosketch
Publications View All

Xie, I., Babu, R., Castillo, M.D., and  Han, H. (2017). Identification of factors associated with blind users’ help-seeking situations in interacting with digital libraries. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology.

Heath, D. and Babu, R. (2017). Theorizing managerial perceptions, enabling IT, and the social inclusion of workers with disabilities. Information and Organization. 27(4), 211-225. doi: 10.1016/j.infoandorg.2017.09.001

Babu, R. and Xie, I. (2017). Haze in the Digital Library: Design Issues Hampering Accessibility for Blind Users. The Electronic Library, 35(5). 1052-1065. doi: 10.1108/EL-10-2016-0209

Babu, R. and Heath, D. (2017). Mobile Assistive Technology and Job Fit of Blind Workers. Journal of Information, Communications and Ethics in Society (JICES), 15(2). doi: 10.1108/JICES-10-2016-0041

Babu, R. (2015). Blind Students' Challenges in Social Media Communication: An Early Investigation of Facebook Usability for Informal Learning. International Journal of Online Pedagogy and Course Design (IJOPCD), 5(1), 58-73. doi:10.4018/ijopcd.2015010105

Babu, R. and Fuller, P. (2015). Towards more helpful bus tracker apps for blind transit riders. First Monday, 20(6), doi:10.5210/fm.v20i6.5536.

Xie, I., Babu, R., Joo, S., & Fuller, P. Using Digital Libraries Non-Visually: Understanding Help-Seeking Situations of Blind Users. Information Research, 20(2), paper 673. 

Babu, R. (2014). Can blind people use social media effectively? A qualitative field study of Facebook usability. American Journal of Information Systems, 2(2), pp. 33-41

Babu, R. (2013). Understanding challenges in non-visual interaction with travel sites: An exploratory field study with blind users. First Monday, 18(12). doi: 10.5210/fm.v18i12.4808 

Babu, R. and Singh, R. (2013). Enhancing learning management systems utility for blind students: A task-oriented, user-centered, multimethod evaluation technique. Journal of Information Technology and Education-Research, 12.

Babu, R. (2012). Developing more accurate competence models for improved e-learning for the blind. Journal of Information Science & Technology, 9(2).

Babu, R., Singh, R., and Ganesh, J. (2010). Understanding blind users' Web accessibility and usability problems. AIS Transactions on Human Computer Interaction, 2(3), 73-94.

Babu, R. and Midha, V. (2007). Accessible E-learning: Equal pedagogical opportunities for students with sensory limitations. International Journal of Web-Based Learning and Teaching Technologies, 2(2), 38-49. doi: 0.4018/978-1-60566-238-1.ch014