Walk a Mile Using Assistive Technology

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Have you seen the popular show Undercover Boss? If you haven’t, the premise behind it is that the boss of a large company, usually the CEO, will go undercover and do the job of one of the employees working at the lowest levels of the organization for a week.

One reason shows such as Undercover Boss are so popular is that many of us can relate to wishing upper management knew what it was like to do our job, and we enjoy seeing those top level people struggle to complete the tasks they created for their employees. It’s the ultimate “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.” How else can we learn to understand and appreciate things other people experience if we haven’t experienced them ourselves?

Give it a Try

Casa Grande, AZ observes a Disability Awareness Day that gives that “walk a mile” experience to people without disabilities for one day. Headed by the Mayor’s Committee on Disability Issues, students and community members tried to live with different types of disabilities, simulating what it’s like to be a person with visual, speech, or motor impairment. It was an eye opening experience for everyone involved.

In addition to trying to navigate the city physically, using ramps to go into buildings and even just getting out of the house in the morning, participants were able to try out different assistive technologies. Tools such as “a keyboard in high-contrast colors with large-print letters, a computer mouse that can be used while holding the hand vertically and a device for people with speech difficulty that allows the user to spell words into it and ‘speaks’ the words out loud.”

The Mayor’s Committee encouraged people who work in Human Resources or related fields to try the simulations. They often make changes that directly impact people living with a disability. “When a grocery store manager participated, for example, Smith said the company widened the aisles in the store.”

This event plays an important role in the ongoing struggle to make the world accessible. More cities should host a similar day, and allow people to experience some of the areas that are difficult to navigate as a person with a disability.

Global Accessibility Awareness Day, which takes place every May 9th, employs a similar tactic – they encourage people to simulate a disability and then try to navigate the Internet. By doing this, they can experience what millions of people with disabilities deal with every day – websites that are not accessible.

If you work for or own a company that has a website, try it out for yourself. Can you get to everything on your webpage without using a mouse? If you had a hearing impairment, could you watch a video on your site and understand what was going on? Take a minute and “walk in your customer’s shoes.” With 10% of the world’s population living with a disability and an aging Baby Boomer generation, can you afford to lose customers because they can’t navigate your website?

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