VariAbility logo created by neurodivergent artist Josh Quicksall

Welcome to the VariAbility Lab at Carnegie Mellon University. Our research mission is to create inclusive workplaces where all people can be successful, without discrimination, especially those with disabilities and the neurodivergent.

Our current research projects focus on creating accommodative physical work environments, collaboration tools that facilitate communication between people with differing abilities, and educational programs that teach communication skills and improve social relationships between team members.

We are recruiting students (PhD, Masters, and Undergraduates) for Spring 2023. If you are interested in working on any of our projects, please get in touch! Include your CV and a brief description of some research you'd like to do.


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Peer to Peer Assistance for ADHD

Some college students with ADHD struggle with focus, studying, and completing work. Our goal to create an app to help them find the best places on campus to work and study that acknowledge and accommodate their cognitive differences.

Neuroinclusive Documentation

An accessible and inclusive platform for eliminating cognitive barriers in pedagogical material

Current pedagogical materials don’t play to the strengths of people with cognitive differences, such as ADHD, dyslexia, and autism, that impose barriers to learning. Our goal is to remove these barriers by creating a new learning platform that alters materials based on one’s cognitive style.

Neurodiversity @ Work

Our mission is to support the preparation, recruitment, persistence, advancement, and management of neurodivergent individuals in the workplace. We will mentor and support neurodivergent students to succeed in their educational goals in high school, college, and beyond. In addition, we focus on creating educational pedagogy to teach neurotypical coworkers how to work best with their neurodivergent colleagues.

Mediated Atmospheres

How can we use a physical form that helps software engineers mediate their attention in an open work environment? To monitor their attentive state to help them regulate their emotions automatically? To communicate one’s interruptibility to coworkers in a socially acceptable way?


Interactive Tool for Empathy in Neurotypicals

Neurotypical people can’t always tell when their autistic colleages are experiencing distress from sensory overstimulation. A resulting lack of empathy can lead to stigma and discrimination against those autistic colleagues. Our goal is to help neurotypical people become better allies towards their autistic colleagues by educating them about autistic experiences. We center the autistic person’s perspective in an immersive VR lesson to explain the effects of sensory overstimulation and tell neurotypicals how they can help. Better understanding will lead to improved empathy.


Facilitating Autistic/Non-Autistic Workplace Inclusion through Technology

Conversations between autistic and non-autistic people can go awry due to differing cognitive styles. Challenges that arise in workplace conversations such as job interviews or performance evaluations can lead to poor outcomes for autistic employees. FIT employs AI to identify verbal and non-verbal conversational cues that signify when interactions are going poorly. Our goal is to facilitate conversations and help the conversants repair miscommunications and misunderstandings.

Design for Neurodiversity

Neurodiversity describes natural variations in human cognition that differ from the dominant neurotype. All cognitive variations, including autism and ADHD, each have their own strengths, yet are rarely included in design processes for creating user experiences. Our goal is to investigate design issues related to the pain points, needs, and desires of neurodivergent computer users and reduce the divergence between the attributes of our users’ cognitive styles and the expectations of our software. Our findings are being used to develop neurodivergent user personas that can help designers heuristically evaluate and improve the user experiences they embed into their software.

Collaboration Station

A web-based, block-based IDE that supports synchronous co-editing and collaboration.




Hala Annabi
University of Washington at Seattle
Kathryn Dow-Burger
Clinical Associate Professor
University of Maryland at College Park
Jennifer Wessel
Associate Professor
University of Maryland at College Park
Elizabeth Redcay
Associate Professor
University of Maryland at College Park
Paige Rodeghero
Assistant Professor
Clemson University
Matthew Boyer
Research Associate Professor
Clemson University

Masters Students

Wenxin (Wendy) Ju W
Wenxin (Wendy) Ju
Manvi Gupta M
Manvi Gupta
Mingzhe (Vera) Li
Mingzhe (Vera) Li

Undergraduate Students

Justin Zou J
Justin Zou
Emily Amspoker
Emily Amspoker
Justin Hsieh J
Justin Hsieh
An Tang A
An Tang
Ireoluwa Alarape I
Ireoluwa Alarape
Zhiheng (Andy) Ye Z
Zhiheng (Andy) Ye
Dhruva Reddy
Dhruva Reddy
Sidney Ozcan S
Sidney Ozcan
Zimeng (Ayla) Wang Z
Zimeng (Ayla) Wang
Gabriel Aguirre G
Gabriel Aguirre
Kajal Mehta K
Kajal Mehta
Yiqun (Melody) Zhang Y
Yiqun (Melody) Zhang
Saanika Chauk S
Saanika Chauk
Erica Fu E
Erica Fu
Baramee (Bing) Bhakdibhumi B
Baramee (Bing) Bhakdibhumi
Veronica Pimenova V
Veronica Pimenova
Janise Kim J
Janise Kim
Meghana Tera M
Meghana Tera
Joseph Lee J
Joseph Lee
Wenjun (Connie) Zhou W
Wenjun (Connie) Zhou
Emily Yu E
Emily Yu

Graduate Student Alumni

Rosanna Vitiello
Alana Rogers

Undergraduate Student Alumni

Mexiuan (Lucy) Li
Raymond Welgosh
Mahith Edula
Adam Bournes