Sunday, January 13, 2008

A recent paper by Jonathan Lazar and others has a very insightful conclusion about blind computer users that contradicts a common stereotype. I am glad that it did.

Part of this is my interpretation of the results, but I don't think I am making any big leaps. Basically, they found that blind users are more likely to look for workarounds when faced with limitations of an interface and are more likely to blame the interface than themselves - compared to seeing users.

My interpretation is that blind people face challenges more often than seeing users. Rather than developing a sense of learned helplessness and dependency - which is the stereotype I referred to - they develop a talent for workarounds. They don't blame their disability, they recognize that it is unimpaired designers who did not do their homework about blind users when designing their systems, who are at fault for the challenges they face.

Not only is this a very healthy, productive response, but it is one that we all can learn from.