Everyday inconsideration

It’s all my fault.  Ok, this is sort of rant, or another rant, depending on how you want to look at it.  It is triggered by a series of issues I have had recently with software and screen displays, being shouted out for falling against (the safe part, even) of an expensively preserved wall and a recent discussion about what makes the impaired feel really estranged and even ‘disabled’. And annoyed.

I was having some issues with the displays of a couple of games. I use some HCI-simple computer games as part of the ‘relaxation’ and ‘enjoyment’ components of my Pain Management routine.  I only have to use one arm (no shoot-em-ups!), can use them when doped up and, if I mess up, nothing is broken.  Great stuff.  However, aspects of these ‘strategy’ games were awkward or difficult to see: characters and lines were chopped off, a display unusable.

I’m fairly computer-literate*, but could not find any – reasonable – settings that made the displays more readable.

On contacting the designers I was told that the problem was due to my display settings. In order to fix it I had to make it work my screen resolution had to be either very small or adjusted to a really awkward setting that meant I could not see all the components of the games. In both cases it meant that using everything else at a scale I could see became uncomfortable. It was, in effect, my fault, not that there were some poor design decisions.

[Edit: Removed boring stuff about what I had to do. Ho hum.]

Irrespective of the quality of the underlying software – both games have their good points which, for geeks like me, make them otherwise really good – there were some assumptions made about the end-users displays that, frankly, showed a total lack of thought about those who had even a mild visual impairment.  In both cases the normal use of windows settings that, as Microsoft puts it, ‘[Makes] it easier to read what’s on your screen’ was totally ignored. Aspects of a user’s display that should be independent of the code were hard-wired.  Basically, inconsiderate design decisions make use of the software virtually untenable.


It’s an example of everyday inconsideration, similar to how those with physical and mental impairments are often treated. When I took a discrimination module a few years back I wasn’t too surprised to find that, in surveys, one of the insults most hated by the disabled is not even considered an insult by ‘normals’ (whatever normal is, but for now the tag will have to do – let’s use ‘normalised’).  It is a word even used by the normalised when they thought they were praising the impaired.

The word is brave.

I couldn’t agree more. I hate generalising, though the survey result helps, but my own experience is often reflected by those with whom I’ve had discussions (as I mentioned at the start). I’ve been called ‘brave’ for trying to continue despite the pain, for trying to retrain and improve myself, for trying new drugs.

It’s not brave. It’s just trying to live within my limitations in a world that only caters for the normalised.** Or sometimes those with wheelchairs. And occasionally for the blind. In places.***

The principle reason I struggle (and apparently a fair number of other disabled) is that the normalised world does not consider anything beyond optimum functionality.  Disabled ethicists and activists have been banging on about this since the 70s: it’s not being ‘brave’ when the main reason you struggle is that the normalised make life so incredibly awkward for the non-normalised.  It’s a world when even small ‘defects’ (is the ageing process a defect?) are sneered at. It’s an approach to building a world that is, dare I say it, arrogantly dismissive of the often simple needs of the non-normalised when all they latter want to do is to live a normal life, to work, earn, love and play in the same way the normalised are privileged to do.

Hmm. I don’t want to be brave, I just want to have a life.  Is it too much to ask? I don’t think so.  Guys, a little bit of everyday consideration wouldn’t go amiss.

 * ‘Fairly’ is possibly a relative word, here.  It’s probably worth being aware that I used to lecture in IT and used to design, and oversee and guide the design of, large-scale, complex, heterogeneous-environment systems – software that had to work in a variety of environments, be highly functional, and also be compliant with EU standards on screen display, workstation use, readability, etc.  By some standards, I suppose, that might make me ‘very’ literate. Ubergeeks, of course, may differ but, to them, we are mere mortals.

** It’s a world that is definitely not for those who are trying to get on despite the side effects of medication, have injured themselves because of those drugs and who begin to fall downstairs at literary festivals when there are no bannisters on the side they can use.  They get shouted at for stopping themselves falling over.  Grrr.  That’s one literary festival I’m going to have to avoid in the future. Shame. Because the speakers were quite good.

*** Okay, okay. Caveats are needed here as these are generalisations. But they are based on my real experiences, not on imaginary grabbings from the air.  Some university student support areas are getting the idea and are getting good at trying to provide the consideration needed, though a ‘you are special’ (:shiver:) or other issues still exist.

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