Sometimes we’re blindfolded, even to our own actions.

You’re given a very specific task. “Go buy milk from the store.”

You gather your wallet and keys, head to the front door. Walk through the door, turn around and lock it. You walk down your front steps, get to the sidewalk and stop. You take a peek both ways for pedestrians, dog walkers, and skateboarders. You see that a few are about to walk in front of you, so you wait. Once they safely pass by, you head off to the store.

Once you arrive, you walk in the front door of the store and look to the back left corner of the store for the dairy aisle. It makes sense that you know where it is—you work at the store, after all. You used to stock the shelves, you’ve been a cashier, and now you’re part of the team that designs displays, determines where the food and other items should go, and co-ordinates purchasing of all your supplies of different varieties of produce and groceries for the store.

You can see all of the cashiers to the left as well—there are 3 open lanes. You’re ready to go. You reach into your pocket and have your $10 bill ready. You reach into your other pocket.

You pull out your blindfold and put it on.

You turn left, walk all the way along the main aisle to the dairy aisle—a trip you’ve made hundreds of times before. You turn right down the aisle and head towards the back where you find the milk. You kind of sneak a little peek at the bottom of your blindfold where it doesn’t quite touch your face just to be sure you’re in the milk section. You select a jug of milk from the bottom shelf. You know it is there—you told the staff to make sure there was milk there because you were going to be testing a purchase.

You grab the milk, turn around, and retrace your steps towards the front of the store. You near the cashier, joining the express line. When you get to the front of the queue, you give your milk to the cashier, who asks you for $5.49. You give him the $10 bill from your pocket, he gives you the change and your receipt and says “Have a great day!” You thank him. You take off your blindfold and put it back in your pocket, and you place your $4.51 change in your other pocket.

You have a huge smile on your face as you walk back home, proud that you were succesful—you completed your task! You were able to buy milk from the corner store while blindfolded without any assistance! You walk home, and report back in to work: “Yes, no problem. I tested it, and we can totally buy milk while blindfolded. We’re accessible.”

Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?

So why do you think you should do the same thing with a screen reader and a web application? Because really, that’s what you’re doing, whether you know it or not.

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  1. Hi Derek,
    We’ve had a long and interesting discussion about this very topic a couple of years ago. It was sparked by Nic Steenhout’s blog post Should Sighted Developers Use Screenreaders To Test Accessibility?
    So, to continue your story, before we engage someone with vision impairment to test if they can buy milk from our store, we should make sure that there are no obvious obstacles in their way, no footstools left between the aisles that they could trip on, that milk sits on a shelf that can be easily reached, that staff have adequate training…

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