Graduate School

Julian Brinkley: Easing Internet Use for a Special Population



Hometown: Chesapeake, VA

Age: 35

Major: Software Engineering, MS

Undergraduate Education: BA, Humanities, University of North Carolina - Greensboro, 2011

After several years as a computer programming and web development pro, graduate student Julian Brinkley is furthering his skills and new knowledge to assist people with visual impairments. He is working to develop technologies that will enable visually impaired individuals to better use the web. Online information is largely visual, and the difficulties that individuals with visual impairments face in accessing it is well documented. Brinkley’s research hopefully will make access to web information much less challenging, less costly, and create a new ease of communication for scores of people.

How did you choose your area of graduate study?

My graduate study and research direction has been largely influenced by my professional experience as a web developer. Many of the things that sighted computer users take for granted are often very challenging for users with visual impairments even with relatively expensive accessibility technology. I am currently working to develop methodologies that may aid practitioners in their development of more accessible applications. Much of this current work focuses on the accessibility of online social networks given the potential that these systems have to eliminate barriers of communication between people around the world. These social networks may be even more valuable for users with impairments given their limited mobility in some cases. I was drawn to this topic due to its inherent complexity coupled with the practical implications that improvements in accessibility can have on the lives of those with visual impairments specifically. My thesis documents the results of two studies that I conducted to investigate this issue and describes a potential solution that I developed using semantic web technologies.

What do you find most challenging/rewarding about your graduate school experience?

Easily the most challenging and rewarding aspect of my graduate school experience has been the research that I have participated in. I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with a number of great people in the computer science department, often getting outside of my comfort zone. The opportunity to participate in collaborative research outside of my primary research areas has been a great growth opportunity. I’ve learned a great deal from these experiences and we have had the good fortune of publishing a number of the resulting papers.

What is cool about your area of study and why should people care about it?

Making things accessible to individuals with disabilities helps us all in small ways that we don’t often think about. Curb ramps at pedestrian crossings, the dip in the sidewalk at crosswalks, are an example. While these ramps enable individuals in wheelchairs to use the sidewalk they also help people without disabilities avoid tripping while crossing! The same is true for web accessibility and mobile accessibility. Advances that help individuals with visual impairments access the web may improve the user experience for individuals without disabilities as well.

Tell us about any academic awards/recognitions/publications you may have achieved:

I have had seven papers accepted for publication over the past 18 months. I presented the most recent, “A Pilot Study Examining the Online Behavior of Web Users with Visual Impairments,” at the Human Computer Information Retrieval (HCIR) Symposium in Vancouver, BC in October. Also, I am the recipient of the Graduate Student of the Year Award for the Department of Computer Science for 2014. 

How do you think your ECU graduate education has helped you?

While the course requirements have helped me achieve my initial goal of updating and expanding my skills, I think the research activities have been the most impactful.

What would you say to someone considering ECU as a potential graduate school?

I would strongly recommend ECU to anyone considering graduate school. The opportunities for personal and professional growth are tremendous.

Hobbies: Painting, writing short fiction.

7:00 am-
8:00 am
Check and respond to emails
8:00 am-
8:30 am
10:00 am-
11:00 am
Teach an undergraduate course
11:00 am-
1:30 pm
Office hours
12:00 pm-
1:00 pm
1:00 pm-
6:30 pm
Work on scientific papers/Research
6:30 pm-
8:00 pm
Relaxing time/Dinner
8:00 pm-
11:00 pm
Catch up on reading and writing
11:00 pm-
11:30 pm
Check last minute e-mails and to bed


College & Dept.: Engineering and Technology, Computer Science

Class: 2014

Favorite class: Software Construction

Professor who has influenced you the most: Dr. Nasseh Tabrizi

Dream job: Computer Science Professor

Your words to live by: “The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.”  - Marcus Aurelius

Significant life lesson you’ve learned while at ECU: Patience!