Monday, October 26, 2009

Let every eye negotiate for itself

Okay, I have a bone to pick with manufacturers. Do you EVER consult with people with disabilities before you create things like toaster ovens and the like?

I have been in my apartment for 9 years now, and the couple at the end of my hallway are both blind. They are lovely people and I adore them. They are extremely self-sufficient and even get around town with their service dogs or just a cane. Many times one or the other of them has tapped on my door needing help with some little thing: “Do these color yarns match?” [yes—the wife knits! I can’t even do that.] or “I can’t find the mechanism to move this clock back an hour.” One night it was a problem with their computer printer. I tried everything—including a call to my friend the geek—but I wasn’t able to help with that one.

I am more than glad to do this for them. That’s how life should be—we help each other out; we’re all in the same boat after all. [Granted some people have yachts while the rest of us are in dinghies, but I digress] And, it makes me put my troubles in perspective.

But twice, a request has set my blood boiling on how insensitive manufacturers are to the needs of folks like my neighbors. Here’s the latest: Mrs. B. tapped on my door last night [hubby is gone for almost 3 weeks to train with a new dog by the way] and she had the control for an electric frying pan in her hand. The knob to turn the pan on had nice evenly spaced indentations around the edge that she thought would be good to judge when it was set at the temperature she wanted. She was asking me to help her figure out how many indentations she should count to set it at say 350°….

Well, guess what!? The indentations didn’t match up to any of temperature settings! AND! It went from OFF thru to 400° and then to “Warm.” WTF??!!??

I had no idea what to tell her to do. [We won’t mention the fact that I had to go get my magnifying glass cause the type on the control was so FRICKIN’ SMALL!!!!!!!] After about 15 minutes of experimenting we hit on a method that might work. But I promised her that if I smelled anything burning, I’d be down in a flash with a pot of water.

It really brings it home to you how able-bodied centric our world is. Most of us forget what people with disabilities are faced with on a daily basis. As a left-hander I have a bit of a clue, but it doesn’t come close to what folks like my neighbors have to handle.

Manufacturers: THINK about how to make your products user-friendly to all types of consumers. Many people with disabilities do live on their own and want to be independent. Be the manufacturer that helps them do that. I’m sure it would win you other customers as well—like me.

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