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IDIC: The Basics of Visual Disability

Futuristic hallway with text reading "IDIC Blogs: The Basics of Visual Disability"

Accessibility in our current world is critical, and it starts with understanding how other people experience the world. After all, while disabilities share some common characteristics, no two people experience a condition identically.

Let’s look at blind, for example. There’s a big difference between legally blind and totally blind, yet the two are typically lumped as the same thing when people talk about them. While that may work for driver’s licenses, it doesn’t work for accessibility.

Someone who is legally blind may still have some usable vision. For example, someone who is blind may not be able to read a 12-point font; significantly increasing the font size may allow them to read still. However, that’s not a universal constant either.

There are conditions like colorblindness, which also limit vision, albeit in a different way. However, pretty much everything is designed to be viewed in color, so colorblindness is a disability. Many people develop tricks to accommodate their colorblindness, but that can be exhausting too.

While there are countless considerations, it all circles back to one thing. The world is not designed to support people with disabilities in general, but we can make our particular corner more accessible.

The most straightforward way to do this, at least in online and digital spaces, is to allow people to modify their own environments. For example, as communities, we can choose platforms that let people pick their own appearance settings, including font sizes and colors. We can also select platforms with other built-in accommodations like AI text-to-speech.

In website design, we can allow someone’s browser settings to override the ones we set up as defaults. For documents, sending modifiable documents lets people change their settings when they view them. If PDFs are essential, choose underlying formats that can be copied to another format.

The important thing is recognizing that people with visual disabilities want to participate and that making a few small changes to our general operations allows them to do so at their own pace.

As someone with a disability, I know how tiring it is to ask constantly for accommodations. However, figuring accessibility into our posts, platform choices, and documents make anything we do together easier. Most of the time, it’s a simple swap that makes a world of difference.

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