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What about me? I can't see.

Accessible design can open up a whole new world of rightful independence for people with sight loss. Maybe, just maybe, the world is starting to realise...

Image of me pointing to the quote "The disability is not the problem. The accessibility is the problem." Mohamed Jemni, TED 2013
People are only left out when they're not included.

It’s been a few weeks since I last wrote about progress in society becoming accessible and inclusive for people who have disabilities.

As promised, I’ve got some fascinating developments to share with you. Some of these were brought to my attention by some of you, which is just bloody delightful. And some I came across myself, while scrolling through the social media rabbit holes.

People talk about manifestation and how, when you’re focused on something, it will come to you. That may not always be true. But I can tell you this. Since starting these blogs, since choosing to focus on and highlight positive energy, stories of pure joy have started to find me.

That’s particularly true for stories of great accessibility. Maybe it’s because society is starting to do more, or maybe it’s because my brain is filtering out the noise and finding me what I want. Whatever the reason, I’m pleased to share it with you.

For this blog post, I’ve mainly featured stories around sight loss, as there were quite a few that make a happy little bundle all together.


Books for children with sight loss – CustomEyes Books

You already know how I feel about books. So a books and accessibility combo is the absolute dream.

Not one, but two amazing developments from Guide Dogs (a working name for The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association).

First up is their CustomEyes Books.

They have over 4,200 large print books available, from young, fun fiction like Dr Seuss, to Shakespeare, as well as educational textbooks.

Now that’s great in itself. But these are better than great. These are custom made to cater for a child’s particular needs. Because there’s no such thing as ‘standard’ sight loss.

With CustomEyes Books you can choose the:

· font type

· font size

· font strength

· line spacing

· colour of the pages

· book binding.

What’s more, Guide Dogs subsidises the cost so each book ordered costs the same as the recommended retail price of a standard print copy, despite all the customisation. Yes Guide Dogs! This is awesome!

And a round of applause for the brilliant name too please. I admit I didn’t even realise until I was telling someone else about it and said it aloud. To those of you now doing the same, (“custom eyes…. customeyes… custo…oh I get it!”), yeah I feel you friend. We can sit at the back of the classroom together.


Books for children with sight loss – The Gruffalo

The front cover of The Gruffalo book
Smelly old Gruffalo!

Next up, and oh so unbelievably creative…Gruffalo scent kits. I mean, WHAT?!

Guide Dogs have worked with publishing house Macmillan Children’s Books and licensor Magic Light Pictures to produce scent kits that bring The Gruffalo to life.

The kits release the scent of the Gruffalo, Mouse, Fox, Owl and Snake to make the story interactive for children with sight loss. It’s part of a campaign to highlight how the world can be made a more inclusive place.

So what do the characters smell like? Well according to the website:

  • Mouse smells like cupcakes.

  • Fox smells like cut grass.

  • Owl has the scent of a freshly poured cup of tea.

  • Snake is smoky.

  • And the Gruffalo? A stinky leathery barnyard smell that permeates from the depths of the deep dark wood.

We’re all thinking teenage boys bedroom, right?


Pregnancy test prototype for women with sight loss

Pregnancy tests 100% rely on sight. If you can’t see, the only way you can find out whether or not you’re pregnant is by asking somebody else to tell you the result.

Think about what that really means.

Firstly, you might not want anyone else to know you might be pregnant. It’s one of the most intimate, private situations we ever face.

Secondly, someone else will always know whether or not you’re pregnant before you do. You will never be the first person to know.

And what if, whatever the result, you’re devastated and have some very personal, private decisions to make.

We should all be able to choose if it’s a moment we want to share. Right now, that choice doesn’t exist for women with sight loss.

So the RNIB, working with Product Designer Josh Wasserman, have created a prototype of an accessible pregnancy test to prove it can be done.

Using the same electronics as a regular pregnancy test, a small motor raises a series of bumps on the top of the test if the result is ‘pregnant’. Meaning touch, not sight, will give you the result.

Now the RNIB of course, are not a pregnancy test manufacturer. But they’ve used the prototype to put a call out to those who are. One major manufacturer has already expressed interest in working with the RNIB to explore if they can really make it happen.

What a huge step forward that would be in ensuring everyone can have the independence, privacy and dignity they deserve. Well, as dignified as peeing on a stick can be.


Braille menus in Starbucks

3 Starbucks mugs
Global Starbucks!

Imagine not being able to do something as simple as order a drink from Starbucks. I have some idea of what that’s like. I have various issues with my sight and struggle to read the menus up on the big board behind the baristas. Not a problem most of the year because I always order tea.

But at Christmas when the wacky hot chocolate’s arrive, I need to know my options! It’s the only time I feel I deserve to be there among the coffee lovers of the world (for the record, I think coffee tastes like arse).

A busy, noisy coffee shop doesn’t exactly lend itself to feeling able to ask the barista to take you through every drink option, size and price.

Which is why it’s so great that this summer, in all it’s US and Canada stores, Starbucks will be introducing Braille and large print menus. I haven’t been able to find if and how that will make its way to the UK, and I’m not aware that its already here. But if you happen to know that it is, please do let me know!

And ahead of the accessible menus, in March Starbucks gave its US customers access to an app called Aira. This instantly connects people with sight loss to agents who can provide them with the visual information around them.

If you have the chance, google Aira and watch their video explaining what they do. It’s incredible and a fantastic example of how technology can help make the world a more inclusive place.


Accessible playground, by Grace, 7 years old

I’ve saved my favourite for last. This is about more than just sight loss and makes my heart so so happy.

It can be hard to change something that already exists today, to make it more accessible. The real key is to design things to be accessible from the very start.

Photo of Grace on a playground
The legend that is Grace

Influencing the designers of today isn’t an easy task. Especially those who are set in their ways. It’s therefore the up and comings and the designers of tomorrow who can make the real difference. People like my friend Helen’s daughter, Grace.

This is the Whatsapp message Helen sent me not so long ago:

‘I just went up to Grace to find her drawing. She said “when I’m a builder, I’m going to build a playground like this.”

So I did the usual “that’s great, what are each of these things?”

“It’s all the different things to play on so everybody can use it, even if you’re injured or blind or in a wheelchair.”

OMG my heart nearly burst with pride!’

Hand drawn picture of a playground, including a girl in a wheelchair, a boy with one arm and a boy and girl who can't see
Grace's accessible playground

I have 3 things to say about this, and I’ll leave you with them today:

1. WHEN I’m a builder. Not IF. WHEN. Nailing the positive affirmations at 7 years old!

2. Builder. Uh-b-bye gender stereotypes, b-bye!

3. HELLO ACCESSIBLE DESIGN!! At 7 years old, this was in her own head, as something that is just the right thing to do. Because every kid should get to play on a playground, shouldn’t they?

Yassssss Grace, you absolute Queen!!

Lyds, out x


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