Empathy Lab Kit
The All Able Empathy Lab contains an eye catching range of equipment to help draw in attendees, start conversations, and help our experts deliver exercises and guidance.
1. Digital Tools
A large part of accessibility considerations for organisations now are in the digital space. Social media, website, customer contact routes, so much of our day to day interactions are now through a computer.
1.1 Windows 11 Laptop
The Empathy Lab includes a Windows 11 Laptop for users to try out the range of digital tools on offer. The laptop comes with additional keyboard, mouse and headphones to enable users to try out all accessibility features.
1.2 NVDA (Non-Visual Desktop Access) screen reader
Screen readers are tools often used by blind or partially sighted users to read out content on the computer. These tools are normally controlled using a keyboard. The NVDA screen reader is a free tool. Attendees will be encouraged to try navigating a news website or other application using a screen reader. They will be taught the main navigational tools to read through content and navigate interactive elements. This experience can help attendees understand what they user experience is like for blind and partially sighted users and how they might improve their content to read more clearly or encourage easier navigation for screen readers.
1.3 Dragon Naturally Speaking 15
Dragon Naturally Speaking is a dictation and voice control tool often used by mobility impaired users who may not have the ability to control a mouse or keyboard with their hands. This voice control enables users to navigate a computer using only voice commands. Attendees will be encouraged to try navigating a website, or writing a document using only the voice commands, and will be taught the controls to freely navigate or write content. This experience can be particularly useful for web developers or others that are creating online forms or applications.
1.4 Windows Ease of Access Centre
The Windows ease of access centre is a free set of tools available with windows 10 and 11 machines. This set of tools is an accessibility customisation suite which can help users to better tailor their computer experience to their needs.
The windows ease of access centre includes:
Display settings including text and icon sizing.
Mouse pointer and text cursor size and colour contrast settings.
Colour filters to support some visual impairments and dyslexic users.
High contrast modes.
Windows Narrator, a free screen reader.
Audio controls for hearing impairments.
Captions customisations across Microsoft products
Windows Dictation, a free voice control
Users will be encouraged to try out a range of tools from the ease of access centre depending on what they are interest in. For example, if the conversation was about visual fatigue when working at a computer, the All Able expert may advise the attendee in colour filters or high contrast modes which can help cut down on white screen glare or make content easier to differentiate for users.
1.5 Accessibility testing tools
Alongside the range of assistive technologies available, many attendees may have an interest in learning about how to test their digital content for accessibility requirements. These conversations are often delivered with an introduction to the technical standards that underpin digital accessibility. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are international standards that digital content should adhere to when aiming to be accessible. The Empathy Lab shows off the following tools, which the All Able team use regularly in our professional auditing services.
1.6 Other digital accessibility exercises
Dalton Colourblind is a Chrome extension tool which provides solutions to some of the everyday problems experienced by colour blind people. People with various types of colour deficiency could benefit from the use of Dalton software including those affected by Tritanopia (blue colour vision deficiency), Deuteranopia (green), Protanopia (red).
UserInyerface is a user experience challenge which subverts user expectation of web design conventions. Attendees will be encouraged to try out UserInyerface and see how far they get and what challenges they encounter.
The Dyslexia simulator is a website crated by someone who had a friend describe to them the experience of trying to read with Dyslexia. The friend said they can read but it requires a lot of concentration as the letters seem to jump around. The creator replicated this experience on the website. Attendees will see that while it is easy to still read short words, as words get longer or become more jargony or technical, it quickly becomes harder and harder to read.
Hemingway Editor is a useful tool for helping content writers improve their text and align more with Plain English content construction ideals. Building content in Plain English is a lesser known accompaniment to accessibility discussions but a highly important requirement when it comes to making accessible content that works for everyone.
My Computer My Way is an online resource and useful took for how to guides to make your device easier to use. Following conversations about customising your computer to better fit your requirements, attendees will be encouraged to take a look at My Computer My Way for further info on customising their own stations as necessary.
1.7 Android and iOS Mobile devices and applications
The All Able empathy lab includes both Android and iOS mobile devices to showcase a range of accessibility features and applications including:
OS accessibility features such as text spacing and fonts
Be my Eyes app - Blind support network app, get help from a sighted person through the phone camera
Google Live Transcribe - Highly accurate live transcription application
Seeing AI - AI camera to audio describe the world around you
Rogervoice - Live captioning for phone calls
Navilense - Blind navigational aid
AssistiveTouch - Gesture controls on the iPhone
Changing places toilet app - Map and directory of UK accessible toilets
2. Physical Equipment
Attendee favourites of the Empathy Lab, everyone loves having a look at "stuff" and the All Able Empathy Lab sure has a lot of interesting physical objects to draw attendees in and to facilitate discussions and activities about accessibility considerations and the affects of different conditions.
2.1 Visual Impairment Simulation Glasses
The All Able Pop-up Empathy Lab kit contains a selection of glasses that simulate a range of visual impairment conditions. With each of the exercises with these glasses the focus of discussion should be on the barriers put in place by the formats of content. We know these particular objects are considered controversial because disabled people cannot just take off their disabilities like a pair of glasses and can sometimes generate negative responses about "how bad it would be to have that condition", which is why we use these to talk about vision obstruction and content adjustments, not as a tool to demonstrate the lived experiences of blind users.
2.2 High Contrast Keyboard
This type of larger print and high contrast colours keyboard is often used by partially sighted users to improve visibility. This keyboard is used as an example of common computer peripheral adjustments and the types of small changes that can significantly improve a user experience at a computer through equipment adjustments.
Some blind or visually impaired users make use of a cane to help navigate and avoid obstacles. Using a cane can help people gain independence but requires certain techniques for use.
2.4 RADAR Key
For many disabled users, accessing toilet facilities can present additional challenges, so it is always beneficial to be aware of accessible toilet and changing facilities when out travelling. Many accessible toilets are only accessible to those with a RADAR key which is a universal key for accessible toilets across the UK.
2.5 Jar Opener
For many mobility impaired users who might have trouble with grip strength or have only one arm etc. single hand or automated jar/bottle openers are a useful tool in having independence in the kitchen.
2.6 Bump dots
2.7 Blind Signature Guides
2.8 Please be patient cards
2.9 Mask Exemption cards
2.10 Disability Lanyards
2.11 Clear Face Mask
2.12 Lip-reading Exercises
2.13 Hand Brailler
2.14 Grade 1 UK Braille Alphabet
2.15 Braille examples
A. A page of Braille text from an article discussing accessibility regulations
B. An example of Braille on one of the All Able Business cards. The braille describes the email address.
C. An example of braille on generic brand medicine packaging. All medicine packaging must include Braille.
2.16 The OPTACON
A historic piece of assistive technology, the OPTACON is an optical character recognition device that uses a series of pins to vibrate a tactile experience of the character onto a user’s fingertip. This piece of equipment is a great conversation starter about how far assistive technology has come, where a person used to require an expensive piece of equipment such as the OPTACON which produces a questionable user experience, to the present day where everyone has built in screen readers on their mobile device by default which produce a far more useful experience for blind users to be able to consume content in a way perceivable to them.
2.17 UK Home Office Accessibility Posters
2.18 Colour Filter Rulers
2.19 Tactile scratch worksheets
2.20 Tactile Paving Examples
2.21 Tactile maps and diagrams
2.22 Other tactile examples
A tactile alternative for the depiction of the recently discovered and now famous black hole image. The brighter areas are represented as higher points, leading to this clear tactile experience of the central hole surrounded by the corona.
A segment of a human spine, starting at the base of the skull and working down towards the shoulder vertebrae. Tactile models such as this can be used in teaching blind students to help them get hands on and understand concepts that might normally only be demonstrated in diagrams on screen.
2.23 UK and Ireland traditional Braille atlas
To demonstrate more traditional approaches to tactile formats the Empathy Lab includes a Braille atlas of the UK and Ireland. This tactile book includes an overall map of the British Isles as well as closer view maps of each country. Notable cities are marked out with either circle or star icons and there are full braille keys for each map included.
The atlas was produced by Tactile Vision Graphics, a Canadian company.
2.24 Optical Magnifier
Magnifiers are common tools used to help partially sighted users better read printed text or view small objects. The Empathy Lab includes a classic dome magnifier for text enlargement.
Magnifiers come in all shapes and size, some are traditional magnifying glasess with a handle, some are glass domes, and some are more like telescopes for example.
2.25 Cambridge University Simulation Gloves
The Cambridge Simulation Gloves are an approximate method of dexterity impairment simulation. The gloves reduce the functional ability of the hands. Plastic strips limit the strength and range of motion of each finger and the thumb. Various conditions, such as arthritis, can cause reduction in these functional abilities. As an example, these gloves will make it much more difficult to use a knife and fork, which correctly simulates the difficulties that people with arthritis of the knuckles have in gripping small handles.
2.26 Lego Braille Bricks
The LEGO Braille Bricks concept is a play-based methodology that teaches braille to children who are blind or have a visual impairment.
The studs are arranged to correspond to numbers and letters in the Braille alphabet. Each brick shows the printed version of the symbol or letter, allowing sighted and blind children to play and learn together on equal terms.
Lego Braille Bricks also has a wide variety of web resources including more than 100 learning activities.
3. Reading material
In addition to all our digital tools and physical objects, the All Able Empathy Lab contains a host of reading materials and other suggested content which users may want to engage with after their time with the empathy lab. The selection contained in the Lab is to show the variety of material out there to support attendees in any and all aspects of accessibility they may want to learn about.
The All Able Empathy Lab contains a number of books on accessible web design, the politics of disabled people, personal stories such as that of Haben Girma or Jon McVey, and guidance books for learning Sign Language.
3.2 Other paper documents
Alongside our growing library, the All Able Empathy Lab contains many other paper guides and handouts. We have:
Communication tips from Action on Hearing Loss
Productivity Tool handouts
Plain English Guides
Running Accessible Events
Accessible Document Basics
Accessible Social Media Basics
Several case study 1 pagers
If customers would like specific 1 pagers or handout guides for an individual empathy lab, the team is always happy to produce individual handouts for specific subjects on request.
For afterwards we also have a selection of suggested documentaries worth watching.
Available on Netflix, the 2020 documentary follows Camp Jened, a New York summer camp for teens with disabilities and those campers who became activists for disability rights and the impact they had on US accessibility legislation.
BBC 2021 documentary. Former Paralympic athlete Richie Powell investigates the sport's classification system, which is accused of being flawed, easily manipulated and lacking credibility.
Available on Netflix, the 2020 documentary looks at the history of and current Paralympic Games.
BBC 2010 documentary (which can be found in full on YouTube) looking at the closure of Britain's insane asylums.
Channel 4, 2020. Rosie Jones, a comedian with a disability is on a mission to help disabled people plan fun-filled adventures. With guest comedians Rosie visits places across the UK to compile a guide to the accessible British vacation.
3.4 Online guides – Make Things Accessible
Finally, for everything else we have an online resource area many of the team make contributions to. Make Things Accessible was set up as a freely available accessibility resource area for anyone to use. We post a large number of guides on the website covering many areas. We refer to these guides all the time and many describe the processes we use in our day to day as accessibility professionals.