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Walking A Mile In Someone Else's Shoes

From: Kynn Bartlett <kynn-edapta@idyllmtn.com>
Date: Mon, 20 Aug 2001 14:12:39 -0700
Message-Id: <a05100303b7a72b86a247@[]>
To: "Charles F. Munat" <chas@munat.com>, "WAI Guidelines WG" <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
At 1:40 PM -0700 2001/8/20, Charles F. Munat wrote:
>I think that it *is* possible, to some degree, for non-cognitively-disabled
>people to appreciate some of the frustrations faced by people with cognitive
>disabilities. Here is how I do it: [...]
>Matt May was saying something about this to me the other night (but we were
>both a little buzzed, so maybe I wasn't comprehending him properly).

Someone once suggested to me that getting stoned/drunk to excess might
be the equivalent of "a blindfold to simulate blindness" for certain
cognitive disabilities -- sure it doesn't really hit what it's like, but
it might help you get a sense of context through personal experience
as to what it feels like a -little- bit.  I am not sure if that person
was joking or not. :)

I agree with your point that just closing your eyes doesn't give a true
sense of what a blind person's life is like -- but I've also seen how
many perspectives can be changed by something like that, too.  The first
exercise in my web accessibility course is a "disable your access to
the web" hands-on exercise, in which students turn off images, sounds,
scripting, etc, and disable their pointing device (assuming the user
has no disabilities).

Does this exactly or even partially duplicate what our friends with
real disabilities go through?  No, not at all, and it's not meant to.
It doesn't represent what it's really like to have a disability at all,
when using the web.

However, what it -does- do is build empathy and identification -- most
web authors have never really thought about what it's like to not have
full access to the web.  By personalizing it -- by them having to
EXPERIENCE difficulties, instead of just hearing about it -- these
web designers, over the rest of the course, can look back and remember
how it made them feel, the frustration they had, the difficulties
they encountered, and resolve that they want to remove those barriers
both for themselves and for someone else.

Until it's made -real- to them, it will only be an intellectual
exercise; until someone suffers through web sites they can't use,
web accessibility will just be one on a list of checkpoints and
statutory language.  "Walking a mile" is where we can bring the point


PS:  I had an idea for an excellent project as spin-off supporting
      material for WCAG 2.0 -- a checkpoint-by-checkpoint multimedia
      experience that shows exactly what happens if you don't follow
      the checkpoint, expressed in ways that bring the importance home
      to the average web developer.

Kynn Bartlett <kynn@reef.com>
Technical Developer Liaison
Reef North America
Accessibility - W3C - Integrator Network
Tel +1 949-567-7006
Received on Monday, 20 August 2001 17:27:40 UTC

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