Monday, February 06, 2006

"Put yourself in someone else's shoes..."

"Put yourself in someone else's shoes, why don't you."

It is an odd and somewhat dated expression, one my mother used whenever I failed to grasp a basic concept.

That concept lay dormant in my brain for a number of years until, one day, I was asked to find out what it was like to be a wheelchair user trying to gain access to the local shops. It was a humbling experience.

Not long after, I was again "in someone else's shoes", in a workshop for the blind in Cardiff - my first "assignment" as a trainee journalist.

I watched as an array of items were assembled with precision and attention to detail, ready for packaging.

Then, as a trainee reporter, I was fascinated and full of praise for the talking newspaper for the blind service in the town I worked in. Bringing the news myself and my colleagues wrote to an audience who I met on occasion. One elderly gentlman had a fantastic grasp on the importance of radio and audio recordings for bringing the world into your home, enthusing about the benefits as many must have at the dawn of radio broadcasts.

Now, zoom forward 16 years and I am back to that start point of my inspiration as a young man; back to that institute for the blind, trying to bring to bear my life's experiences to find ways of using technology to support blind and visually impaired people.

To start with, I am hoping to do that wheelchair exercise once again, this time trying to use a computer as a blind or visually impaired person would, day to day, to discover what issues are involved.

I have this germ of an idea about a possible project to set up a podcasting studio in the blind institute, creating a stimulating, shared resource that people everywhere can use.

If at all possible, I would like to draw on the experiences of blind and visually impaired people who have read this blog to offer their thoughts and experiences of using new technology, particularly the idea of a shared podcast resource.

Stevie Disco