Cardiff School of Art & Design>Staff>Professor Wendy Keay-Bright

Professor Wendy Keay-Bright, BA, PhD, FHEA

Wendy Keay-BrightProfessor of Technology and Inclusion

Director, Centre for Applied Research in Inclusive Arts and Design (CARIAD)

t:  02920416609

Research Profile 

As Professor of Technology and Inclusion, Wendy has over two decades of experience in interaction design, communication design and animation. In 2005 she was awarded a NESTA Learning Programme award to develop playful technologies that could foster an interest in communication for autistic children. Following this project, she led a range of externally funded projects, with, for example, National Film Board of Canada, Rayne Foundation, Higher Education Academy, Technology Strategy Board, ESRC, EPSRC, Arts Council of Wales and the Raspberry Pi Foundation. Each project resulted in software applications for desktop, whiteboard and tablet PC, training resources and materials for schools, as well as workshop activities, live performances, and events.

Wendy's research strives to discover an enchantment with simple things, and to arose curiosity through interaction, enabling a positive experience that always begins with individual ability. The focus of this work has been on engaging learners with cognitive and sensory disorders, of all ages, using the interface as a conduit for real world exploration. Throughout her research she has been fortunate to have collaborated with marginalised groups, families, healthcare and education professionals, using participation and co-creation to realise magical, in the moment, interactions between people and low-cost technologies.

In 2015 Wendy established a pan-university research group, bringing the disciplines of the arts, sport and psychology together to work on applied research projects with stakeholder partners. The Centre for Applied Research in Inclusive Arts and Design (CARIAD) is a thriving hub of multidisciplinary research, supporting postgraduate students and real-world stakeholders in tackling issues of social concern. For more on CARIAD and Wendy's personal research projects see:

In addition to PhD supervision, Wendy runs the MDes Global Design programme, which connects students from many disciplines through socially motivated design processes and projects.

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Specialist Subject Areas

Participatory Design
Inclusive Design
Ethical Design
Interactive Arts
Graphic Communication


BA (hons) Graphic Design


I am a designer with over two decades of experience in the area of interaction, animation and moving image design, including teaching, research and development, project management, knowledge transfer and public engagement. I am currently Professor of Technology and Inclusion and Director of the Centre for Applied Research in Inclusive Arts and Design (CARIAD). CARIAD is a multi-disciplinary centre, bringing the disciplines of the arts, sport and psychology together to work on applied research projects with stakeholder partners

I originally trained in Graphic Design and Animation and worked in the animation industry for many years before becoming an academic. My research interests are concerned with enchantment, magic and curiosity, whether through the physicality of objects or interfaces, as a means to promote self-awareness and expressivity.

I am a firm believer in supporting participation, and in pursuit of this, my work over the last decade has included people diagnosed with autism and complex learning disabilities as key stakeholders, with the power to influence the design process and output. This person-centred approach to technology innovation has informed the design of internationally renowned software, ReacTickles, Somantics and Somability. The award-winning projects have been shown to improve expressive communication, to promote independence, increase opportunities for authentic physical exercise, and reduce the need for carer intervention for some of the most profoundly disabled people in our society.  The longer-term impact is evidenced by institutional and attitudinal change, as schools, adult learning centres and clinical practices are using technologies in more innovative ways as a direct consequence of using this software. Sponsorship and endorsements from Microsoft, Raspberry Pi and Smart Technologies indicates the respect this work has gained among the world's leading technology corporations.

I adopt a minimalist approach to design, allowing people to add their own complexities by removing cognitive stress and placing them at the heart of a playful interface. In contrast to technology interventions that use virtual reality and social networking to augment communication, my work aims to place interaction in the here and now, as a performance, unique rather than generalised. My interest in technology is to augment and render these experiences, so that they are palpable to both the user and audience. Inspired by philosophical perspectives on phenomenology and perception, my research has a distinctly practical application. Stakeholder and practitioner engagement is vital to the sustainability of projects, beyond research. For this reason, I am committed to experimentation with consumer-based, open-source, affordable platforms as a way to iterate creative and critical exchanges between designers, professionals, IT support and end-users. The outcome is to provoke discussion and ideas, rather than to seek a solution to a problem.

Current research

Making Movement Irresitible

Wendy is principal investigator on the Making Movement Irresistible (MMI) research project funded by Arts Council of Wales, National Lottery Health & Wellbeing award. The overarching aim is to develop an innovative suite of digital, online, and wearable accessories that encourage improvisational movement interactions with older adults in a variety of residential settings. 

Although average life-span is ten years longer than for previous generations, these years are often lived in poor health (Centre for Ageing Better 2019). There is an urgent need to find ways to support people to 'live well' into older age. Research has evidenced the benefits of exercise and detrimental effect on health and wellbeing of loneliness and social isolation.

 The scoping phase of the project was funded by the Global Academies, with a remit to facilitate collaborative and interdisciplinary research, innovation, and teaching in addressing challenging global priorities.  Multi-disciplinary researchers and practitioners from the CARIAD research group, the Centre for Health, Activity and Wellbeing Research (CAWR) and Stroke Hub Wales established a network of stakeholders who are participating in the design and development of MMI. Together the team are addressing the challenges that older people experience when age and setting start to inhibit opportunities to move with ease. For more information see

Making the Digital Future Crafty, funded by HEFCW

This project is a collaboration with artist/maker Aidan Taylor, creative technologist Helen Leigh and computer scientist Dr. Parisa Eslambolchilar from Cardiff University. The collaboration also included teachers, therapists and classroom assistants from a variety of special education settings in South Wales. Making the Digital Future Crafty adapted the nine principles of the Maker Movement: make, share, give away, learn, tool up, play, participate, support and change, Hatch (2013), as a framework for enabling design with the special education professionals. The project focused on building simple electronic devices and basic coding in a series of maker workshops that, in turn, stimulated conversations and stories describing learner ability. These stories invited ideas for technology concepts that could generate the pedagogical agency to support learner creativity. When placed within these real-life contexts, the concepts enabled participants to bring imaginative scenarios into being, and to articulate interaction within inclusive, future-facing narratives. Read more about Making the Digital Future Crafty, here in the Journal of Enabling Technologies.

Prior to Making the Digital Future Crafty, Wendy Keay-Bright established the Enchanting Technologies Special Interest Group (SIG), within Cardiff Met FabLab. The SIG is a creative partnership between professionals from the special educational needs sector and researchers, artists, designers, computer scientists, postgraduate students from Higher Education. 

The mission of the SIG is to use digital fabrication and co-production as a means to overcome the marginalisation of pupils with profound disabilities. The research objectives are to investigate the role of enchantment, embodiment and playfulness on the subjective well-being and artistic agency of learners who are typically hard to engage. A key motivation for this collaboration is the need for participatory infrastructures that support the practical implementation of the "Successful Futures" curriculum in Wales, which will require a more synergistic vision for developing the digital competence of learners. The work was presented at IASDR, 2019, Manchester, UK.

Autism Reimagined, University of Kent 

Wendy is on the expert panel of the Autism reimagined project at Kent University. The project is a follow on from Imagining Autism. Wendy, Graphic Communication student, Tom Collins, and Contemporary Textiles student, Kimberley Mellor, have been collaborating with the Imagining Autism team to design a set of resources for teachers and parents. The PopPupPod includes a bespoke puppet and activities that encourage children, their teachers and families to create a series of environments in which they can explore Play, Puppetry and the Senses.  

Playing A/Part, University of Kent 

Wendy is on the Advisory Board of Playing A/Part, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. This interdisciplinary project, exploring the identities and experiences of autistic girls and adolescents through creative and participatory research. It is a collaboration between the universities of Kent and Surrey, involving academics in drama, media arts and psychology and a steering group of autistic women.

InnArbeid, Oslo School of Architecture and Design, Norway

Wendy is the lead expert on a multidisciplinary collaboration, InnArbeid, led by Oslo School of Architecture and Design, Norway, The goal of InnArbeid is to develop innovative services and applications that enable persons with disabilities to find, gain and retain a position in working life. This entails a new service model with various kinds of technology that will support the transition from school to work and further support a continued working life participation.


Somability was a project led by Professor Keay-Bright in collaboration with Rhondda Cynon Taf Skills for Independence and Artis Community (2015).


Recent Publications, Exhibitions and Awards

Click here to view Professor Wendy Keay-Bright’s papers and publications on Cardiff Metropolitan University’s DSpace repository.

Recent Publications

Keay-Bright, W.E., Eslambolchilar, P. and Taylor, A., 2021. Enabling design: a case of maker workshops as a method for including special educators in creating digital interactions for learners with profound disabilities. Journal of Enabling Technologies.

Keay-Bright, W. and Eslambolchilar, P., 2019. Imagining a Digital Future: how could we design for enchantment within the special education curriculum?.

Porayska-Pomsta, K., Alcorn, A.M., Avramides, K., Beale, S., Bernardini, S., Foster, M.E., Frauenberger, C., Good, J., Guldberg, K., Keay-Bright, W. and Kossyvaki, L., (2018). Blending human and artificial intelligence to support autistic children's social communication skills. ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI)25(6), p.35.

Hansen, L, Keay-Bright, W., Milton, D (2017) Conceptualising Kinesthesia: Making Movement Palpable. The Design Journal, Volume 20, 2017 - Issue sup1: Design for Next: Proceedings of the 12th European Academy of Design Conference, Sapienza University of Rome, 12-14 April 2017

Karen Guldberg;  Kaska Porayska-Pomsta; Sarah Parsons; Wendy Keay-Bright (2017) Challenging the knowledge transfer orthodoxy: knowledge co-construction in technology enhanced learning for children with autism. British Educational Research Journal, 1-32.

Hansen, L, Keay-Bright, W., Milton, D (2017) Conceptualising Kinesthesia: Making Movement Palpable. The Design Journal, Volume 20, 2017 - Issue sup1: Design for Next: Proceedings of the 12th European Academy of Design Conference, Sapienza University of Rome, 12-14 April 2017

Keay-Bright, W., Hansen, L, (2017) Dancing in Data: Representation, Repetition and Recreation. Functional Neurology, Rehabilitation and Ergonomics, Nova Science Publishers

Keay-Bright, W (2017) Somability: movement, independence and social engagement for adults with complex needs. Movementis: Brain Body Cognition Conference, Oxford UK, 9-11 July

Funded Research Projects


Raspberry Pi Foundation

Somatopia is a partnership with, Raspberry Pi, Cariad Interactive and a number of schools and arts organisations. The overarching aim of Somatopia is use the RaspberryPi with the PiCam and microphone to enable people with an interest in learning about gesture-based interaction to modify, and ultimately develop, beautiful, playful interfaces. The benefit of using a camera and mic as an input is that it can include many more people, who may otherwise be excluded, to become part of a unique user experience.

The unique context for this project is that it brings novice developers together with potential beneficiaries throughout the project lifecycle. We have designed some simple worksheets which we intend to offer with the software, for those keen to understand and practice participatory design. The first round of prototypes to emerge from this process have been tested in a variety of settings, through our engagement with schools, therapy centres and arts organisations, such as Vision 21, Sherman Theatre, Cardiff and Arts Depot, Finchley. 

Rayne Foundation; Rhondda Cynon Taf Skills for Independence
Somability is a collaborative project undertaken with Rhondda Cynon Taf Skills for Independence, who provide lifelong skills and arts activities for adults with complex needs. The goal of the project has been to create a suite of motion sensing software resources that can make movement irresistible for the many adults who have little opportunity for participating in appropriate sports and leisure activities. Somability is being designed to utilise everyday spaces as performance spaces and environments for playful, rhythmic and co-created interaction

Rhondda Cynon Taf Skills for Independence; Touch Trust; Welsh National Opera
This project was a celebration of the work of Rhondda Cynon Taf Skills for Independence, supporting adults with complex needs. The outputs included a performance of the Aesop’s fable, North Wind and the Sun at the iconic Wales Millennium Centre. Performers included service users, the Touch Trust, the Welsh National Opera.

2011-12: SOMANTICS
Higher Education Academy, JISC, TechDis, TSB.
The project pioneered innovative uses of game technologies, making them accessible to some of the hardest to engage young people. A significant funding award enabled the inclusion of young adults in residential care in the development and evaluation of software – Somantics. This suite of open source applications provides a medium for expressive communication and creativity. Furthermore, it is truly inclusive. The project also included free iPad versions, which can be used by the most severely autistic person, the experience is totally person centred and no prior skill is required. Free downloads are available from the project website. Somantics has a world-wide following and has united teachers and learners in exploring bodily interaction as a unique, empathic mode communication.

Rayne Foundation
The project investigated the benefits of technology as a transferable medium, helping young people adjust to new environments. The outputs included technology applications that could downloaded onto large and small scale devices, depending on individual need. Examples include large scale projections in the assembly hall, gym, corridors as well as classrooms and homes using iPads, enabling children to take aspects of their experiences to different spaces around the school. The work is an extension of ReacTickles (see below) and uses bold, abstract, cause and effect interfaces to attract and maintain attention and to encourage repetition, helping children to adjust to new settings. The project involved a Special Education School for pupils with autism in South Wales. Outputs included a free iPad App and software downloads. For more see


2015: Exploring Diagnosis, Egenis, Exeter University

I have been working with the team at Exeter University and the National Autistic Society using ReacTickles Magic and Somantics in workshops as part of the project, Exploring Diagnosis. Funded through the Wellcome Trust, the project team have been running animation events with adults on the autism spectrum and film production company Calling the Shots. In addional to experimenting with the original ReacTickles software we been busy creating some fantastic web based ReacTickles, which run on any browser.

2013: Listening Aloud
Youth Music
In partnership with MUSE (Music in Special Education), and Cardiff Metropolitan University, I am conducting research and exploratory technology development in order to discover ways to make music accessible for those who experience additional barriers to participation. The project includes children from three special schools in the West of England.

2012-13: SHAPE: Shaping the Future of Technology in the Classroom
Funded by the ESRC
There is a growing interest in technology enhanced learning for children with autism. Whilst having strong theoretical and technological foundations, pedagogical and social relevance is frequently missed when technologies are not appropriately deployed. The SHAPE project uses digital stories to capture the powerful voice of teachers and pupils, enabling them to share ideas, resources and examples of good practice.

2006 – 11: ECHOES
This Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) project has been created to improve children’s social interaction through exploratory learning in a multimodal environment. The project involved partners from 8 major UK Universities and included the target population of children with high functioning autism, as well as typically developing children, in the design of the system. For more see

I have been an academic peer reviewer for the following conferences:
• CHI – Human Factors in Computing Systems, 2012-2014
• TOCHI – ACM Transactions on Computer Human Interaction 2012 -2014
• International Journal of Arts and Technology (IJART)
• Participatory Design (PD) Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR)

Editorial Board Member:
• Journal of Assistive Technologies

Associate Editor:
• Design Principles and Practices
• Technology, Knowledge and Society
• Digital Arts and Culture


2015: Finalist for Social Accolades Award, Somability (result pending, June 2015)
2011: Winner of the Best Innovation in Inclusive Design: Include 2011 Awards,
Royal College of Art, UK
2007: Winner of the Design Principles and Practices International Award for Excellence in the Design field
2007: Winner of the Innovative New Forms of Socially Responsive Media category in the MIPDOC Content 360 competition at MipTV, Milia, Cannes, France
2007: Finalist of the Wales Leadership Awards Leadership in the Public Sector.
2006: Finalist of the Welsh Woman of the Year Awards: Woman in Science and Technology.
2006: Short-listed for the BECTA ICT Excellence Award Short-listed
2006: Winner of the S4C National Charity Awards Autism Cymru Wales Autism Award

Consultancy and Public Engagement

Consultancy focuses on using my design skills to work with communities and organisations to develop strategies for inclusion, always building on existing materials and expertise. My interest is in discovering novel, affordable and useful ways for technology to compliment natural situations with the minimum demand on resources.

Through my relationship with the Wales Arts, Health and Wellbeing Network (WAHWN) and the Design for Real Life Graphic Communication projects, my public engagement work straddles many areas of arts, health, and special education.

Examples of seminars, workshops, presentations and consultancy in the UK include: Arts Council of Wales, Arts Depot, BBC Digital Innovation Week Wales, Sherman Inclusive Theatre, Vision 21, National Autistic Society, NASEN, Autism Cymru, Autism Europe, Autism Today, Hirstwood Training, Touch Trust, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Steljes, Smart Technologies, TagLearning.

International seminars, workshops and presentations include SCOPE Communication Resource Centre, Melbourne, Institute of Technology, Bombay, and the Department of Pediatrics, Xi’an People’s Hospital, China.