Over the last year or so, there have been a lot of people starting to take accessibility seriously, which I love. Accessibility is showing up in blog posts, Github repos, frameworks, and styleguides. But sometimes the way they write about it minimizes the impact that a disability can have on an individual trying to get by in the world.
This isn’t an easy post for me to write. I hadn’t planned on writing it yet, but then on October 2nd, 2015 I gave a talk and while I knew what is in my slides, I didn’t realize I was outing myself while I was speaking. I guess I was just in the zone. This is what happens when you don’t rehearse and know your lines verbatim. You wing it and say what works in the moment.
If you couldn’t make it to Open Source & Feelings, and I think a few people missed it—don’t make this mistake next year, I gave a talk on Designing with Empathy which you can read or watch the video of below. Thanks to Confreaks for taping this.
This weekend I had the pleasure of speaking at the inaugural edition of Open Source & Feelings. It was an amazing conference tackling some really hard topics. I received really great feedback from the audience on my “Designing with Empathy” talk and several asked for the transcript as they couldn’t take notes fast enough. So here is the talk broken out with what was on the slides as well as the script I tried to follow. The video is coming, and I will add that when available.
More than once I have spoken about giving the user control over their experience. Too often we make assumptions about how things should work, but in the end those assumptions always forget someone. Providing a set of tools for the user to control the situation or experience allows us to have the most rich and dynamic experience we can build, but one that any user can get behind even if they can’t do all the fancy bells and whistles.
My friend, Sara Blackthorne, has been running a podcast for over 6 months now. She has 25 weekly episodes under her belt at In Her Room where she holds “meaningful conversation with women writers from around the world” (she is a much better writer than me, so I’ll use her words) and it is all community supported.
I’ve been working on a new talk called “Designing with Empathy” that covers a little more than accessibility, but addresses the needs of those using assistive technology as well as those who have difficulty with technology. We all carry biases with us and when we build new sites, tools, apps, or games those biases leak through no matter how hard we try and prevent it. I hope to introduce some thoughts and ideas on how to reduce the influence of that bias as much as possible in your next project and I’m super excited that the fine folks over at OSFeels have asked me to present this talk to their audience.
When I speak with people about my chronic illness, there is often confusion on it. Many people think, “your pain [or dizziness] is just in your head” and that I can just let it go or ignore it. Yes, my disabilities are invisible, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t very real. When we meet people who are deaf, we can’t see what is physically wrong with them, but we believe them when they say they can’t hear us. Why don’t we believe people with other disabilities?
Society has many ills. People are fallible and get themselves addicted to unhealthy things all the time. It may be overeating, under-eating, gambling, alcohol, or drugs, but each of these people is dealing with a pain that their particular addiction gives a little bit of relief from. We recognize that these addictions are diseases; we spend millions a year advertising and partaking in various treatments for them. We recognize that people who have these addictions need to take life a day at a time; there is no magic wand for addiction. It is a constant struggle. But many of these addictions are just covering what the real problem is, mental health. As a society we don’t talk about mental illness. We don’t admit that is too is a disease that takes a daily fight and this needs to change.