Reginé Gilbert, author of Inclusive Design for a Digital World: Designing with Accessibility in Mind, is appointed an NYU James Weldon Johnson Professor

A faculty member at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, Gilbert is being honored for making digital spaces more inclusive and accessible.


NYU Tandon Industry Assistant Professor Reginé Gilbert, who teaches in the school’s Integrated Design & Media (IDM) program, has been appointed by NYU Interim Provost Gigi Dopico and Vice Provost Charlton McIlwain as a James Weldon Johnson Professor. 

The professorship was established in 2020 to recognize NYU faculty whose scholarship has the most far-reaching impact or potential impact in the areas of social justice, inequality, criminal justice reform, and related topics. The honor is named for NYU’s first Black professor, James Weldon Johnson, a civil rights activist who was executive secretary of the NAACP and one of the leading figures in the development of the Harlem Renaissance. The honor provides $25,000 per year for three years in research support while the named title continues for the duration of the faculty member’s career at NYU.

Gilbert–an in-demand presenter at such events as the International User Experience Professional Association conference and the Design and Diversity conference–is well-known for her 2019 book, Inclusive Design for a Digital World: Designing with Accessibility in Mind, a comprehensive volume that explores the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, best practices for web development, and more. In 2023, Oxford University Press will release her next book, Human Spatial Computing, which she co-authored with Doug North Cook and which focuses on the human aspects of extended reality. 

“We now hear a lot of buzz about the metaverse, but if augmented and virtual reality technology is going to be adopted widely, it must have practical uses beyond games and must be accessible to all, including the disabled,” Gilbert, who recently developed a class in human spatial computing, says. “Technology has, overall, increased connection, information equality, and cross-cultural competence around the world, and if we want to keep that trajectory going, now’s the time to make access and usability of new tech a priority. I encourage my students to imagine a utopian future in which extended reality technologies are used to address social justice, sustainability, and mental health issues, and think about how we can reach that future.” In an exercise meant to expand their imaginations and deepen their empathy, Gilbert’s graduate students recently worked with an undergraduate art and technology class taught by Professor Andres Leon Geyer in Peru for a cross-cultural exchange of advice through art in Mozilla Hubs (WebVR). 

"We're thrilled with Reginé Gilbert's appointment as a James Weldon Johnson Professor,” says IDM Co-Director Scott Fitzgerald. “Her work is an extraordinarily valuable contribution towards ethical, just, and human-centered technology and engineering practice. It is a great honor to work with someone who does so much good for society through inclusive design."

“Reginé’s emerging-media research and teaching speak directly to Tandon’s mission of helping to make the world a more accessible, equitable place through the power of technology,” Dean Jelena Kovačević says. “I congratulate her on this well-deserved honor and believe that James Weldon Johnson would be proud to have his name connected to her work.”