sue watling

Blogging after the event is difficult on the one hand because other ‘things’ take over but on the other hand ‘things’ that stay are those with the deepest impact so maybe waiting before blogging is one way of identifying the most ‘bloggable’ bits rather than posting stream of consciousness ramblings. The Disability Research Conference at Leeds Met on 22 April raised my awareness of a debate around the use of simulations to demonstrate disability. I’m developing a workshop on promoting best practice in the design of electronic documents and was intending using simulations to produce disorientation for raising awareness of potential barriers to access. Hearing several people speak against this, I turned to the JISC Dis-forum list for advice and from the received responses I’ve compiled this summary and list of resources.

Summary: The prime reason for not using simulations is concern that they may cause misconceptions thereby creating additional barriers rather than reducing them. Simulations detract attention from the individuality of the user; everyone has different mechanisms for dealing with impairment and a generic simulation – while demonstrating the barrier – doesn’t (can’t) address lived experience.

The balance to this is that while simulations can be considered offensive (How can you possibly ‘know’ what it’s like) they do offer experiential insight which raises awareness of potential barriers thus encouraging change in practice. The most acceptable alternative appear to be the use of existing literature and video as demonstration rather than a temporary replication of impairment which can only ever fall short of the reality.

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Online simulations


·          SimDis by Techdis 

·          Vischeck colour blindness simulation   

·          WebAim Screen Reader Simulation

·          WebAim Low Vision Simulation 

·          WebAim Dyslexia Simulation

·          WebAim Distractability Simulation

·          Active Learning in Computing (ALiC) Computing Science CETL, Leets Met


·          Loughborough DsylexSim (not free)




·          Burgstahler, S., and Doe, T. (2004). Disability-related simulations: If, when, and how to use them. Review of Disability Studies, 1(2), 4-17.

·          Flower, A., Burns, M. K. and Bottsford-Miller, N.A. (2007) Meta-Analysis of Disability Simulation Research. Remedial and Special Education, 28, 2: 72-79.

·          French, S. (1992) Simulation Exercises in Disability Awareness Training: A Critique. Disability and Society, 7,  3: 257 – 266.

·          Papadopoulos, G and Pearson, E (2007) Accessibility awareness raising and continuing professional development: The use of simulations as a motivational tool. ALT online newsletter 2007: 7




·          The Wrong Message by Valerie Brew-Parrish (1997) and The Wrong Message update (2004)

·          Smith, J.W. (1997) Disability Simulation That Works. The Braille Monitor 40, 4

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