I had the pleasure of being part of Pearson Canada’s Accessibility Awareness Day on May 17th. Along with the VP, Digital Studio and Manager, Content Development, Higher Education, we showed videos demonstrating attitudinal barriers and perspectives from members of the disability community. The videos ranged from lighthearted to informative and included:
- Robot Army Productions – Jeremy the Dud (Trailer)
- Stella Young – I’m Not Your Inspiration, Thank You Very Much (TEDxSydney)
- David Berman – Web Accessibility Matters: Why Should We Care
- Web AIM – Experiences of Students with Disabilities
- Rhett & Link – Caption Fail: Jamaican Vacation Hoax
Once the videos played, we invited staff to participate in a few activities using low-vision simulation goggles, borrowed from Mohawk College. Activities included discerning puzzle pieces, counting change and reading text at different font sizes, all while wearing the goggles. I also shared samples of printed Braille materials and general facts on vision loss (from the CNIB).
— Aiann Oishi (@aiannoishi) May 17, 2018
Everything in Context
Before I began the activity, I was careful to reiterate that the goggles were simply simulators and would never be an accurate representation of a person’s experience with vision loss. I was aware that there had been an ongoing discussion about the potential harmful effects of vision simulators. Research had shown the goggles could reinforce fears and poor attitudes about living with a disability. I agree that, without proper guidance, the goggles could become a meaningless, “let’s pretend” activity. It’s easy to put the goggles on, knowing they could be easily removed when a task becomes a challenge.
In one activity, most participants could comfortably count the correct change when asked when given a reasonable amount of time. I acknowledged that in some situations, you wouldn’t have 10-15 minutes. Whether it was boarding a crowded bus or checking out in a busy grocery store, the environment had a big impact on the experience. Factors like muscle memory, availability of support (i.e. friends and family) and familiarity with the environment (i.e. noise, room layout) all take a part.
While the simulation was well-received by staff, I especially enjoyed the discussions that came up afterwards. I was keen on providing a safe space where participants could ask questions and engage with each other. I remember how our professor for the Diversity Perspectives course, Lianne Fisher had done something similar. I do hope the day was meaningful for Pearson Canada and that they will continue to host an Accessibility Awareness Day every year.
Learn more about Global Accessibility Awareness Day and join the conversation with #GAAD on social media.