Simply Accessible challenges you to celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) 2015 by taking matters into your own hands. You up for it?

Two hands

The protagonist of our story is a project manager at a large retailer. His task is simple: “Apply for a new job at the company where you work. Do it with one hand behind your back and the other hand immobilized with tape, with only a stylus to maneuver through the site.”

(Okay, maybe not so simple.)

He labours through the process, spending several minutes navigating through his company’s site. In order to search the job listings, he has to create an account. He spends fifteen or twenty minutes working through the registration form and dealing with several error messages along the way. Finally, he reaches the last step: submit the form to gain access to the job listings. He hits Submit. He shoves back from his desk, stands up and yells at the computer, “Are you kidding me?!”

There, on his screen, an error message reads: “If you’re already an employee, please go here and use our internal system.”

He has to start again from scratch.

If he was working with two, fully mobile hands, the process would have taken four or five minutes max. He’d see the error message, shrug, and go on. With limited mobility, he invested 20 minutes, he wasn’t able to achieve his goal, and he lost his faith in the site’s usability. He no longer trusted the user experience. What other problems awaited him in this “simple” task?

“Why didn’t they give me the message before I wasted all that time?” he asked. Our brave hero learned one of the most valuable lessons web accessibility teaches: the power of empathy.

Putting yourself into someone else’s situation–or an approximation of it–is a lightning fast way to experience the very real and very human impact of inaccessible sites. (And, in this case, understand how accessibility equals usability.)

So for Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2015 (GAAD), we at Simply Accessible issue you a challenge:

Spend one hour online using only one hand.

But not one fully mobile hand–that’s too easy. Go all in, like the hero of our tale. Wrap a rubber band around your fingers and thumb. Use a pencil, eraser-end down, as a stylus.

Hands holding a sparkler

Your challenge, if you choose to accept it (and we sincerely hope that you do), is to try these six common, and easily taken for granted, tasks:

  1. Log in to a website. Any site. Your email. That dating site. Bonus points if you try logging into a Windows machine. Ctrl + Alt + Delete with a stylus is no joke.
  2. Write and send an email. Probably to your mom because it’s been awhile, son. Tell her about the girl you just met on that dating site.
  3. Register for something. That health guru’s juice cleanse email list. Our enlightening newsletter. Your first marathon.
  4. Research something using a search engine. Plug in those keywords, receive your kerjillions of results, and navigate through them to find the one you want.
  5. Book a flight or buy something. You may never look at your billing address the same away again.
  6. Map someplace you need to go. Enter your destination and get directions. Try zooming in to get the detail.

If you’re a designer or developer, try using sites or apps that you’ve created. How do they function for someone with decreased mobility?

This exercise isn’t the equivalent of experiencing life as a person with a disability, but it’s a way to understand their challenges online. It’s a gentle, empathetic wake-up call to disrupt your assumptions and expand your awareness. There’s no better way to celebrate GAAD.

We’d love to hear about your experiences! What were your biggest challenges? Insights? Did you think about your own site differently? Send your stories to hello@simplyaccessible.com.

As a special GAAD gift to our community, we’ll choose five lucky folks to receive a private hour-long consultation with SA’s fearless leader, Derek Featherstone. He’ll personally guide you to the next step on your accessibility journey.