W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > w3c-wai-gl@w3.org > July to September 2001

Re: Walking A Mile In Someone Else's Shoes

From: Anne Pemberton <apembert@erols.com>
Date: Mon, 20 Aug 2001 18:24:43 -0400
Message-Id: <>
To: Kynn Bartlett <kynn-edapta@idyllmtn.com>, "Charles F. Munat" <chas@munat.com>, "WAI Guidelines WG" <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
At 02:12 PM 8/20/01 -0700, Kynn Bartlett wrote:
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. :)

Kynn,  drinking to excess may duplicate what it's like to have brain damage 
including cognitive disabilities,  but stoned may or may not duplicate 
disabilities (am I showing my age here?) ....  the classic book to 
understand cognitive disabilities and super-cognitive disabilities is 
called "Flowers for Algernon" and it's an interesting story to show you 
some insight into the mind and limitations of a person with the extremes of 

It is difficult to get a feel for what a cognitively disabled person faces 
in life unless you are a close friend, family member, or teacher to such a 
person. Since I'm going through it as a daughter, I know that having a 
parent with dementia or Alzheimer will open you eyes to the incredible 
differences in cognitive disabilities ....


>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

Anne Pemberton

Received on Tuesday, 21 August 2001 06:54:58 UTC

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.1 : Tuesday, 16 January 2018 15:33:38 UTC