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Dr. Deborah Fels, Professor, Information Technology Management

Dr. Deborah Fels

Director, Inclusive Media & Design Centre | Professor
DepartmentInformation Technology Management
EducationBSc, MHSc, PhD
OfficeTRS 3-090
Phone416-979-5000 x 557619


Dr. Fels has a PhD in Human Factors from Industrial Engineering at the University of Toronto. She is currently employed as a professor in the Ted Rogers School of Information Technology Management, and the Director of the Inclusive Media and Design Centre at Ryerson University. Her research interests involve inclusive design, access to media and technology for people with disabilities and older adults, inclusive video game design and inclusive business.

Current research projects include: 1) emotive captioning and music visualization including software application, EnACT for adding animation to text; 2) audio description including software tool, LiveDescribe and LiveDescribe Web; 3) TerpTube - co-creator for creating online sign language web pages and for sign language interpreter training support tool; and 4) sensory substitution techniques for access to sound and visual information including creation of a vibrotactile system called the Emoti-chair and a vibrotactile music facility, the VibroFusionLab. She is also a professional engineer.

Inclusive media and technology, mobile and pervasive computing, human factors, and web accessibility.

Book Chapters

Udo, J.P. & Fels, D.I. (2013). Exemption or not? Copyright and perceptual disability for accessible media. In Coombs, R. & Wershler, D. (eds.) Dynamic Fair Dealing: Creating Canadian Culture Online.

Udo, J.P. & Fels, D.I. (2011). From the describer's mouth: reflections on creating unconventional audio description for live theatre. In Serban, A. & Lavaur, J.M (eds.) Audio Visual Audiovisual translation in closeup. Peter Lang Publishing Group, New York.

Fels, D.I., Prescod, F., and Norrie, J., (2006). A successful vendor relationship for a large-scale laptop programme at Ryerson University. in Beverly Pasian and Gary Woodill (ed.). Planning to Learn: case studies in e-learning project management.

Refereed Journal Articles

Naraine, M., Whitfield, M., Fels, D.I. (forthcoming). Who’s devising your theatre experience? Journal of Visual Communications.

Branje, C., Fels, D.I. (in press). The Vibrochord: Validating a theoretical framework for the evaluation of musical input devices. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies. *

Seaborn, K, Fels, D.I. (2015). Gamification in Theory and Action: A Survey. International Journal of Human Computer Studies. 74 (Feb). 15-31.*

Hibbard, E., & Fels, D. I. (2014) Answering a PhD qualifying exam in ASL: One person's experience. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology28, 3.

Branje, C., Fels, D.I. (2014). Playing vibrotactile music: A comparison between the Vibrochord and a piano keyboard. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies. 72. 431-439.*

Branje, C., Nespoil, G., Russo, F., & Fels, D. I. (2014). The effect of vibrotactile stimulation on the emotional response to horror films. Computers in Entertainment (CIE)11(1), 5-18.

Webster, G., Fels, D., (2013). Portraits of people with dementia. American Journal of Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementias. 28(4). 371-376.*

Naraine, M., Fels, D.I. (2013). The importance of “Strategic chat time” for person who are blind or low vision: A proposal for future research. British Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness. 31(3). 208-216.

Whitfield, M., Fels, D.I. (2013). Inclusive design, audio description, and diversity of theatre experiences. The Design Journal. 16(2). 219-238.*

Hibbard, E., & Fels, D. (2013). Usability of Vlogging: sharing ASL content online. Mediation et Information, (36), 199–212.

Ammirante, P, Russo, F.A., Good, A., Fels, D.I. (2012). Feeling voices. PLOS-ONE. Online at

Russo, F.A, Ammirane, P. & Fels, D.I. (2012). Vibrotactile discrimination of musical therapy. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance. 38(4) 822-826.

Smith, D. & Fels, D.I. (2012). The disintegrated erotics of second life. The International Journal of the Image. 2(3).

Branje, C.J. & Fels, D. (2012). Can amateurs create quality audio description. J. Visual Impairment and Blindness. 106(3). 154-165. *

Fels, D.I., & Astell, A. (2011). Let me tell you a story: A model of conversation for people with dementia. American Journal of Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementias. 27(7). 535-541.*

Udo, J.P., Copeland, L., Fels, D.I. (2011). Producing audio described theatre: Views from a director and blind describer. International Journal of Translation Studies. 23(2). 59-79.*

Fels, D.I. & Gedeon, S.A. (2011). Understanding motivations of entrepreneurs in the assistive technology market. Disability and technology. 23(2). 53-64.*

Vy, Q., and Fels, D. (2011) Enhanced Captioning Speaker Identification: Text vs. Images. Telecommunications Journal of Australia. Awarded Telstra-TJA Christopher Newell Prize - 2nd place. 61(2). 29.1-29.13.

Karam, M., Branje, C. Udo, JP, Russo, F., Fels, D.I. (2010). Comparing computer vs human data collection methods for public usability evaluations of a tactile audio display. Journal of Usability Studies. 5(4). 132-146. *

Udo, J.P. & Fels, D.I. (2010). Blind and low-vision theatre-goers evaluate an audio described performance of Hamlet. British Journal of Visual Impairment. 28(2). 139-156.

Udo, J.P. & Fels, D.I. (2010). Universal design on stage: Live audio description for theatrical performances. Perspectives: Studies in Translatology. 18 (3). 189-203. *

Udo, JP, Fels, D.I. (2010). Refashioning fashion: an exploratory study of a live audio-described fashion show. Universal Access and the Information Society. 9(1). 63-75.*
Udo, JP., Fels, D.I., (2010). Enhancing the entertainment experience of blind and low-vision theatre-goers through touch tours. Disability and Society. 25(2). 231-240. *

Udo, JP., Fels, D.I. (2010). The rogue poster-children of universal design: Closed captioning and audio description. Journal of Engineering Design. 21(2). 207-221. *

Udo, J.P., Fels, D.I. (2009). The development of a new theatrical tradition: Sighted students audio describe school play for a blind and low-vision audience. International Journal of Education and the Arts. 10(20). *

Karam, M., Russo, F.A., & Fels, D.I. (2009). Designing the Model Human Cochlea: An Ambient Crossmodal Audio-Tactile Display. IEEE Transactions on Haptics. 2(3). 160-169.

Udo, JP, Fels, D.I. (2009). Suit the action to the word, the word to the action”: An unconventional approach to describing Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness. 103(3). 178-184. *
Refereed Conference Proceedings

Bajko, R.,. Hodson, J., Seaborn, K., Livingstone, P., Fels, D.I. (2015). Guilds, Die Rolls, and Leaderboards: Gamification of Two Undergraduate Multimedia and Social Media Courses. EdSIG.Wilmington.

Kwok, L., Fels-Leung, S., Meza, M., Fels, D.I. (2015). The Tecla Shield 3 (poster). 3rd Annual TVN Conference on improving care for frail elderly Canadians.

Seaborn, K. Pennefather, P. Fels, D.I. (2015). Eudaimonia in Human Factors Research and Practice: Foundations and Conceptual Framework Applied to Older Adult Populations. ICT4AgeingWell 2015.

Fels, D., Whitfield, M., Baffa, R., Aybar, D. (2015). IIS you is my digital baby: An Intimate Interface System for persons with disabilities. GI’2015. Pp. 171-178.

Edey, J., Seaborn, K., Branje, C., Fels, D.I. (2014, October). Powered to play: A mixed reality game for people driving powered chairs. In Games Media Entertainment (GEM), 2014 IEEE (pp. 1-8). IEEE.

Engler, R. Fels, D.I. (2014). Intimate Interfaces: an inclusive game, designed to people with mobility issues. 5th International Forum of Design as a Process. Guadalajara.

Fels, D.I., Roush D., Church, P., Gerdzhev, M, Stevens, T, Hibbard, E. (2014). TerpTube: A Signed Language Mentoring Management System. ICCHP2014. Paris. 408-414.

Seaborn, K. & Fels, D.I. (2013). Reimaging Leaderboards: Towards gamifying competency models through social game mechanics. Gamification 2013. Stratford.

Hibbard, E., & Fels, D. (2013). Sign language video blogging and deaf culture. WSSF. Montreal.

Fels, D., Shea, G. Sawchuk, K., Smith, D, Gardner, P., Rudzik, F. (2013). Applications and Technologies for a More Inclusive Society. WSSF. Montreal.

Bajko, R. & Fels, D. I. (2013). Meeting participant perception and usage of smartphones and other mobile devices during meetings. IEEE Professional Communication. Vancouver.

Pouris, M. & Fels, D. I. (2012). Creating an entertaining and informative music visualization. ICCHP 2012. Linz. 451-458.

Baijal, A., Kim. J., Branje, C., Russo, F.A., Fels, D.I. (2012). Composing vibrotactile music: A multi-sensory experience with the Emoti-Chair.  IEEE Haptics. Vancouver. 509-515.

Bajko, R., & Fels, D.I. (2011). Mobile telephone Usage and Perception During Group Meetings. CONISAR. 4(1837), Winner, Meritorious PhD paper award.

Hibbard, E., Fels, D.I. (2011). The vlogging phenomena: A Deaf perspective. ASSETS 2011. Dundee. Pp. 59-66.

Webster, G. Fels, D.I., Gowans, G., Hanson,V.L. (2011). Portraits of individuals with dementia: videos of care managers. British HCI. Bath. 331-340

Naraine, M., & Fels, D.I. (2011). When audio description came to town. A longitudinal study. FICCDAT. Toronto. Retrieve from

Fels, D.I. & Astell, A. (2011). Let me tell you a story: A model of conversation for people with dementia. CHI workshop: CHI Bridging practices, theories and technologies to support reminiscence. Vancouver.

Fels, D., Gerdzhev, M., Ho, J., Hibbard, E. (2010) .Usability and use of SLS:Caption. ASSETS2010. Orlando. Pp. 291-292.

Vy, Q. V., & Fels, D.I. (2010). Enhanced captioning: Using avatars for speaker identification. ICCHP 2010. Vienna. Pp. 247-254

Webster, G., Alm, N., Fels, D.I., & Gowans, G. (2010). Portrait: Portraying individuality. ICCHP 2010. Vienna. Pp. 576-583.

Branje, C. J., Nespoli, G., Russo, F. A., & Fels, D. I. (2010).  Vibrotactile stimulation. Proceedings of the Graphics, Animation, and New Media Conference. Ottawa

Karam, M., Branje, C., Nespoli, G. Thompson, N., Russo, F.A., Fels, D.I. (2010) The Emoti-Chair – An interactive tactile exhibit. CHI2010. Atlanta. Pp. 3069-3074.

Karam, M., Branje, C., Russo, F., Fels, D.I. (2010). Vibrotactile display of music on the human back. ACHI2010. Barcelona. Pp. 154-159.

Mori, J. Fels, D.I. (2009). See the music: Can animated lyrics provide access to the emotions in music for people who are deaf or hard of hearing? IEEE Symposium on Human Factors and Ergonomics.Toronto. Pp. 951-956.
Fourney, D., Fels, D.I. (2009). Creating access to music through visualization. IEEE Symposium on Human Factors and Ergonomics. Toronto. Pp. 939-944. 

Branje, C., Maksimowski, M., Nespoli, G., Karam, M., Fels, D. I. & Russo, F. (2009). Development and validation of a sensory-substitution technology for music. 2009 Conference of the Canadian Acoustical Association. Niagara on the Lake.

Russo, F.A., Maksimowski, M., Karam, M. and D. I. Fels. D.I. 2009. Vibrotactile discrimination of musical timbre. Paper presentation at the Society for Music Perception and Cognition. Indianapolis.

Branje, C.J., Karam, M., Russo, F., Fels, D.I. (2009). Enhancing entertainment through a multimodal chair interface. IEEE Symposium on Human Factors and Ergonomics. Toronto. Pp. 636-641.

Chignell, M.H., Hosono, N., Fels, D., Lottridge, D.M., and Waterworth, J.A. (2009). Mobility, Emotion, and Universality in Future Collaboration. In Gross, T., Gulliksen, J., Kotze, P., Oestreicher, L., Palanque, P.A., Oliveira Prates, R., and Winckler, M. (Eds.): Human-Computer Interaction - INTERACT 200912th IFIP TC 13 International Conference, Lecture Notes in Computer Science 5727, pp. 924-925.

Vy, Q., Fels, D.I. (2009). Who's Saying What? Using Avatars for Speaker Identification. Interact 2009. Uppsala. pp. 916 – 919.

Fels, D.I., Gerdzhev, M., Hibbard, E., Goodrum, A., Richards, J. (2009). Sign language online with Signlink Studio 2.0. HCI International. San Diego.

Date Invited Seminars, Courses, Exhibits and Presentations

July 2014

Keynote address: American Council of the Blind Conference, Las Vegas, US.

Dec. 2013

Installation. A Christmas Story with the London Symphony. London Theatre for Performing Arts. London, Ont.

Nov. 2013

Invited presentation. Evolve or Perish Symposium. Media Arts Network of Ontario. Ottawa, Ont.

Sept. 2013

Invited demonstration and presentation. Common Pulse Arts and Disability Festival. Durham, Ont.

June 2012

An Evening of Sensory Fusion. Installation of Emoti-Chair at Petit Nuit Blanche. Museum London, London, Ont.

Oct. 2011

Invited demonstration and presentation: Inclusive Design and Media Access. Turner Broadcasting Inc.

Oct. 2011

Invited seminar: Inclusive Design. University of Surrey, Faculty of Management.

Oct. 2011

Vlogging at the DCC. Nuit Blanche exhibit at the Deaf Culture Centre. Toronto, Ont.

Oct 2010

Vibes! Feel It!. Nuit Blanche exhibit at the Deaf Culture Centre., Toronto, Ont.

June 2010

Emoti-chair workshop. Vancouver Song Institute, Vancouver, BC.

April 2010

Inclusive entertainment. Research Seminar. St. Andrews University. St. Andrews, Scotland.

March 2010

Inclusive gaming. Keynote address. Open house. University of Dundee. Dundee, Scotland.

March 2010

ORGANic Evolution III. St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church. Toronto. Emoti-chairs were involved in this concert.

December 2009

Inclusive gaming. Public lecture. University of Dundee. Dundee, Scotland.

November 2009

CLT research overview. Research seminar. Edinburgh-Napier University. Edinburgh. Scotland.

September 2009

Inclusive entertainment. Research seminar. University of Dundee. Scotland.

October 2009

Array Music concert. Music Gallery.  Toronto.

March 2009

Feel the Music: An accessible concert for deaf or hard of hearing audiences. Live music concert. Clinton’s Tavern. Toronto


Course Code Course Title
ITM 100 Foundations of Information Systems
ITM 350 Concepts of eBusiness
ITM 445
Multimedia in Business
ITM 530 Interaction for Multimedia
ITM 700 Information Technology and Strategic Management
ITM 780 Web Design and Management


Course Code Course Title
MT 8103 Applied Research Methods I
MT 8314 Human Factors in Tech Design
MB 8600 Research and Communication for Managers
MT 8600
Research and Communication for Managers


Course Code Course Title
CHIT 300 Introduction to Healthcare Human Computing


Organization & Project


Amount for Dr. Fels/Ryerson


NSERC Discovery

D. Fels

$28,000 per year


TVN – Tecla Shield 3.0

D. Fels & Komodo OpenLab


2014 - 2019


Alex Mihailidis + 20 other researchers; Co-lead with A. Astell



NSERC Engage: LiveDescribe with Zagga Entertainment

D. Fels, K. Shaw



GRAND NCE & Canada Council for the Arts – Vibrafusion lab

D. Fels, D. Bobier



SSHRC Insight – Vibrafusion lab

D. Fels, D. Bobier



NSERC Engage: Scooter games

D. Fels, Komodo Open Systems Inc.



OPIC – Accessible mobile interface for gaming

D. Fels, Komodo OpenSystems Inc.



Google – LiveDescribe lite

D. Fels



SSHRC Partnership Development – Intimate interfaces

D. Fels, M. Gurevich, B. Crow

$60,000 per annum


NIH Small Business Initiative. Eastern Kentucky University. Terptube

D. Roush & D. Fels

$60,000 per annum


National Institute of Health; Crowd-sourced audio description

Joshua Miele (Kettlewell Smith Eye Institute)

$29,000 per annum


NSERC - Accelerator grant

D. Fels

$40,000 per annum


NSERC – Discovery grant

D. Fels

$32,000 per annum


National Centre of Excellence – GRAND (there are many industry partners for this but we are aligned with TAD Inc.)

K. Booth, A. Goodrum

$40,000 per annum for Fels, Fels is also Ryerson block captain


Canada Foundation for Innovation – Inclusive Design Institute

J. Treviranus

$30,000,000 (Ryerson portion $360,000)


Canada Foundation for Innovation - Experiential Design and Gaming Environment

Dimitri Androutsos



ORF-RE - Project ÆGIS – Integrating Accessibility into Emerging ICT

J. Treviranus, D. Fels, + 10 other partners

Ryerson portion = $90,000


Bell Globe Media

B. Milligan & D. Fels


  • PhD in Human Factors, University of Toronto, Canada
  • MHSc in Clinical Engineering, University of Toronto, Canada
  • BSc in Biological Engineering, University of Guelph, Canada

“Intimate Interfaces for People with Disabilities” CBC Metro Morning. Feb. 13, 2015.

“Audio description in Canada Panel” AMI television. Interview. April 10, 2014.

“Feel the Music” CBC Radio, Music and Technology by Nora Young. Aired March 25 & 28, 2009.

“Vibration Chair Helps Sense and Feel Music” Gizmo Watch. Aired March 12, 2009. 
“Daily Planet” as reported by Natasha Stillwell. Aired March 9, 2009.
CBC News: Morning (CBC-NW) as reported by Heather Hiscox. Aired March 9, 2009.
“Can This Chair Really Allow Deaf People to Feel What It’s Like at a Concert?” CBC News and Current Affairs as reported by Deana Sumanac. Aired March 8, 2009.

“Russian Radio Podcast Live at Emoti-Chair Concert with Frank Russo, Ellen Hibbard, David Fourney, Deborah Fels and Eric Buehner Podctahция. Aired March 5, 2009.

“Russion Radio Podcast for Emoti-Chair Concert with Frank Russo” Podctahция. Aired March 5, 2009.

“Tech Talk” (city-fm) as reported by Katfish Morgan, David Schellenberg, Lauren Stone. Aired March 5, 2009.

“Toronto at Noon” (CFRB-AM) as reported by Dave Trafford. Aired March 5, 2009.

Radio Canada Interview with Stéphane Vera and Yanik Dumont., external link Aired February 26, 2009.

“Promoter Launches Rock Gigs for the Deaf”, external link BBC Radio 4, You and Yours. Aired February 26, 2009.

“Here & Now” (HR1& HR3)(CBL-FM) as reported by Matt Galloway and Jennifer McGuire. Aired February 25, 2009.

“Canadian Researchers Launch Chair That Helps Deaf People Understand Concept of Music” 680 News, by Rudy Blair. Aired February 5, 2009.
  • Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario
  • Human Factors Association of Canada
  • Human Factors Society
  • Association of Computing Machinery (SIGCHI)
  • Awarded the Collaborative Research Award. Ryerson University. 2014.
  • Awarded the 2013 Dr. Margaret R. Pfanstiehl Memorial Achievement Award-Research and Development in Audio Description. American Council of the Blind.
  • Awarded Ryerson SRC Award. Ryerson University. 2011.
  • Awarded Ryerson’s Sarwan Sahota Research Award. Ryerson University. 2009.