Tour of IndependenceFirst – part two

I’ve been spending the past couple weeks sharing insights from attending both “Multiple Facets of Accessible Design” and a tour of IndependenceFirst. Tonight, I’ll wrap it up with one more post about the various things I learned walking around the facility.

Display case of assistive technology devices, photo courtesy of Michael SeidelI was really impressed by the extent to which a place like IndependenceFirst goes in making all aspects of their facilities accessible. Some examples didn’t surprise me, like having bathrooms and shower facilities that are fully usable by those with various disabilities, or a cafeteria with accessible appliances. Others were just things I’d have never thought of.

There is an extensive library of assistive technology devices available for use, some I recognized and others that were completely foreign to me. They were several cases with all manner of these devices — keyboards, telephones, calculators, clocks, measuring cups, to just name a few.

Computer Recycling area at IndependenceFirst, photo courtesy of Michael SeidelIndependenceFirst has a program in which they help people with disabilities get recycled computers. This includes training such as accessing the Internet. We got a glimpse of this Computing Recycling area. There are even local Milwaukee businesses that send volunteers over to get donated computers up and running.

I had never even considered the idea of an accessible copy machine, but we got to see one. Also, in the tour of the Wellness Center, Carol Voss pointed out a wheelchair-accessible weight scale, something that is very rare, even for hospitals.

It’s probably pretty obvious that I came away from visiting IndependenceFirst with a deep appreciation for their services. Four straight blog posts about my experience ought to prove it! After building a rapport with IndependenceFirst through social media, I was glad to finally see the place and meet people like Carol Voss.

Wheelchair scaleI feel I’ve learned a lot in my first year of delving into web accessibility, but I’m coming to realize that there is a huge difference between reading insightful articles and online materials, and actually firsthand watching how disabled people interact with the world around them.

Watching Scott Mayer cruise — and occasionally stumble — through web sites, just trying to do basic tasks like pay bills online, really phased me, in a good way. Even someone who’d like to think of himself as enlightened to web accessibility has a lot to learn!

For me to call myself a true web accessibility expert, I’m going to need more direct contact with disabled web users. You can’t truly understand what they go through by solely checking web sites yourself and running automatic tests.

(Special shout to to friend and colleague Michael Seidel for sharing the photos of the assistive equipment and the computer refurbishing room)

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