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In My Own Words - "Amazingly Ordinary" - What does that mean?

Posted: 24th of October, 2011
What does "amazingly ordinary" mean? Yahoo Alan Brightman explains the idea behind Independence-2011.

In this article, we meet Alan Brightman. As a leader in the Global Accessibility Team, Alan opens our eyes to what a Yahoo user with disabilities may feel, and how we can all learn about the humanity of accessibility during Yahoo!'s Independence-2011.

Be honest. If you were able to picture our hundreds of millions of users, how often do you think that picture would include individuals with disabilities?
Never? Yes, that’s pretty much the average. And understandably so. After all, most of us have almost no direct experience with disabled people so if we ever do think about kids or adults with disabilities, we usually think about them as being somehow “special” - as being very different from who we usually think of as Yahoo users.

Just Plain Ordinary

Many years ago, a friend of mine told me from his wheelchair that the toughest thing about being disabled is, “I’m never perceived as just plain ordinary. I’m either noticed too much or noticed not at all.” That’s a strange place to be, not being able to simply blend in—to be invisible—whenever you want.

And that is how the idea for Yahoo!’s Independence-2011 came about.

The Humanity of Accessibility

More than a thousand Yahoos have toured our Accessibility Labs in Sunnyvale and Bangalore and, as a result, have learned a lot about the technology of accessibility. What we haven’t been able to teach well enough, though, is the humanity of accessibility or what I think of as the ordinariness of disability. So we’re bringing that amazing ordinariness to the Yahoo campus. We’re giving Yahoos the opportunity to better understand the disabled experience in a comfortable, engaging, and non-threatening setting.

Independence-2011 Activities

There will be a lot going on during Independence-2011. A nationally known chef, who happens to be blind, will display his culinary talents in an activity called “Cooking Without Looking.” An organization known as the AbleGamers Foundation will show how kids and adults with profound disabilities use various assistive technologies to play the same video games on the same consoles as everyone else. The National Center for Accessible Media will be on hand demonstrating a variety of technologies, including one that they invented, which enables people who are deaf to watch captioned versions of first-run movies while sitting right next to someone—in a mainstream movie theater—who isn’t seeing any captions at all.

Other activities and demos will be arrayed across the Yahoo campus, including what many Yahoos see as a rare opportunity to show off their basketball prowess. They’ll be playing in wheelchairs on our courts against a professional wheelchair basketball team from Berkeley.

Las Vegas odds have yet to be posted for the wheelchair basketball competitions, but I think it’s safe to say that the guys in the purple shirts will be humbled. And trounced.

Alan Brightman
VP, Global Accessibility Team