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.

The All Able Empathy Lab includes a host of physical devices, reading materials, digital equipment, including assistive devices and technology and many other tools all supported by training and guidance from the All Able team to ensure users understand where an empathy lab experience fits into training and the focus on barrier removal.

The page is quite long as we have a large amount of kit, but we have tried to link to tools or products we have so that you too can start to think about what equipment you might like to try out if you are soon to attend an All Able Empathy Lab or are considering booking us for an event.

 We also want to encourage others to build out their own Empathy Labs if they are able to do so and want to use it as an awareness raising tool in their own organisation, so we hope this list helps give people some ideas for their own collections.

The All Able Empathy Lab set up at a customer site with staff ready to engage visitors in conversations on accessibility and inclusion.

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.


The All Able Empathy Lab show cases a range of assistive technologies and accessibility testing tools.

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. 

Example of Dragon Naturally Speaking toolbar.

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:

Example of Windows Ease of Access centre window showing the High contrast options

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.

Adobe Pro Accessibility checker results example
Example of the Axe DevTools window.

1.6 Other digital accessibility exercises

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:

A selection of the empathy lab kit presented at a customer event.

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.

You may question why we still have some simulation gear in our kit list. We keep the simulation gear almost specifically to have the conversation about the controversial aspect of them and about what are better approaches to building empathy within organisations.

Loss of central vision (early and late stages) glasses

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.

A high contrast yellow and black large print keyboard.

2.3 Cane

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.

A collapsed white cane

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.

RADAR Key. The handle is large, red and made of rubber. It has the words RADAR Key in Braille on.

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.

Multi size jar opener from IKEA

2.6 Bump dots

Bump dots are sticker dots that can be placed onto different equipment around the home, such as marking settings and functions on a washing machine or microwave.

A pack of red bump dots

2.7 Blind Signature Guides

There are still times in a person’s life when they will be required to physically sign a document using a pen. For blind users this obviously presents an additional challenge in knowing where to sign.

Signature guides are a common tool that take the form of a small piece of plastic often the size of a credit card. The guide is positioned over the document to sign, with the dotted line inside the cutout. This plastic edge then gives the blind users a tactile box within which to keep their signature.

Blind signature guides. A pair hand made and a pair of promotional ones from Aniridia Network UK and the Royal National College for the Blind.

2.8 Please be patient cards

If Covid had any silver lining, the awareness raising around hidden disabilities may be one small positive outcome. There is a lot of debate around the requirement of disabled people to “out themselves” by wearing badges or cards, but some can find it useful for example, during travel, when they may want to notify people in a loud environment that they have a hearing impairment, or a mobility issue that may mean they move slower than normal.

Three cards that say "Please be patient, I have a hidden disability".

2.9 Mask Exemption cards

One of the most controversial disability related items from the covid era were the mask exemption cards. We have obtained these controversial items specifically to help attendees reflect on the way disabled people were treated during covid restrictions and how some bad actors utilised reasonable adjustments to avoid public health measures, damaging the reputation of these tools in the process and impacting the experience of disabled users that may have had a genuine need.

One side of the mask exemption card inside a clear plastic pocket. The text reads "Please remove your face covering so I can understand you better".

2.10 Disability Lanyards

In a similar vein to the mask exemption cards, disability lanyards became a symbol of rule avoidance during the pandemic but have since become a more accepted signifier of hidden disabilities.


Many chose to wear these lanyards or other signifiers in situations where they feel they need to make those around them aware, or now as a symbol of their ownership of their disability or allyship with disabled colleagues or friends.

A green ribbon with white flowers on it

2.11 Clear Face Mask

Another item from the pandemic, facemasks presented significant issues to deaf and hearing impaired individuals who relied on lip reading to identify what people were saying. Different approaches were tried including face shields or clear face masks such as the one pictured below to help hard of hearing people still be able to converse with others while still reducing chances of infection.

2.12 Lip-reading Exercises

The lip-reading exercise sheets are used to demonstrate how hard it can be for some D/deaf or hard of hearing individuals to understand a speaker just through lip reading alone.


Have individuals stand facing each other and provide each of them with either a sheet A or sheet B. Have them take it in turns to read the examples given on each sheet and the other person guess what was said. For example: person A will read the first example Love, Laugh, Tough. Person B will then guess what is being said.

Lip reading exercise cards, each card has 3 sets of words or phrases to mouth out.

2.13 Hand Brailler

This device is used to manually punch Braille into a piece of paper, card or plastic surface.

Each cell corresponds to a braille letter and attendees are encouraged to try out writing some Braille such as their name or other example they would like to try.

Hand brailler and braille punch.

2.14 Grade 1 UK Braille Alphabet

A useful tool in conjunction with the Hand Brailler. The Grade 1 UK Braille alphabet introduces attendees to the Braille format and how to construct words. It can also be used to introduce attendees to the complexity of Braille as a language and instruct on the higher levels such as Grade 2 which introduces contractions.

Braille alphabet print out

2.15 Braille examples

Braille can be found in many different places you may not expect. We have a few Braille examples to show attendees some of the places you might next look out for Braille such as on medicine packaging, on elevator buttons, or even on business cards.

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

GovUK has produced many useful tools for accessibility design, one of the most well known being the UK Home Office accessibility posters which give quick examples of do's and don'ts when designing for users with different conditions or access requirements including:

The posters are available for anyone to download and use or create their own versions.

Examples of 6 Home Office accessibility posters covering the topics of autistic spectrum, screen readers, low vision, physical or motor disabilities, deaf or hard of hearing, and dyslexia

2.18 Colour Filter Rulers

Some partially sighted users, and dyslexic users can have problems with eye strain, or readability when looking at paper documents as well as on screens. Some users find it useful to look at content through coloured filters which can reduce eye strain or help reduce mental load for some dyslexic users.

Colour filter rules are a tool often used to adjust the colour of text being read on a printed document as well as provide a separator to help users read one line at a time, or only a small block of text at a time.

Displayed selection of colour filter users and instructions.

2.19 Tactile scratch worksheets

These plastic sheets are used as tactile alternatives for quick and easy drawing. Using a pen or other scoring implement, the user can draw onto the sheet, leaving a raised impression on the reverse side. Flipping the paper over reveals the now tactile graphic.

Tactile scratch worksheets. Semi transparent plastic with a course texture, which when scratched raise into discernible tactile lines.

2.20 Tactile Paving Examples

Everyone is familiar with the bumpy paving slabs at road crossings and train stations across the UK, but people may not know why we have them or what they mean.


Tactile paving is used to help blind navigators orient themselves at crossings or know where the edge of train platforms is. The different patterns represent either a guide to the crossing point or showing the crossing point location.

2.21 Tactile maps and diagrams

All Able are researching improvements to tactile format options through 3D printing. The research has created a variety of examples from different sources showcasing the range of delivery offered by new design and printing improvements. Highly detailed multi-height tactile alternatives have been created from, existing traditional tactile maps, lecture slides, photos of maps and images in real world locations, historical artefacts, stone carvings, and from scratch.

You can find out more about the research project and download some of our tactile examples.

Comparison of original canterbury cathedral microcapsule map pictured top, and enlarged 3D printed map pictured bottom.

2.22 Other tactile examples

In addition to the advancements in tactile formats being made by the All Able research, there are also plenty of other useful tactile examples already available that can help blind users access subjects that were previously thought not to be an option.

Famous image of the black hole corona.
3D printed black hole tactile example.

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 grey resin spine on a marbled surface

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.

UK and Ireland Braille map

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.

A magnifying glass on a piece of paper

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.

The Cambridge Simulation Gloves laid out alongside instruction booklet and case.

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.

Lego Braille Bricks box.

2.27 Easy pull can openers

A useful mobility aid for many who struggle with the finger dexterity requirements of opening drinks and food cans. Easy pull can openers are another accessibility aid that have made their way into common usage for a much larger range of people.

Left, an easy use drinks can opener. Right, a one pull food can opener.

2.28 Four senses board game

A touch based game sold by the RNIB in the UK. This game is meant to set a level playing field for both blind and sighted users alike, requiring a good memory for counter placement and identifying pieces by touch, the game is a fun challenge and route into talking about the tactile skillset.

The Four Senses wooden board game including a four by four grid, selection of tokens and an eye mask.

2.29 Braille keyboard stickers

A comprehensive set of 72 adhesive-backed overlays with raised Braille markings for a standard computer keyboard. These are a DIY style adjustment that people may apply to existing pieces of technology, not just a keyboard but other devices in the house where a Braille letter or number label may be useful.

A braille keyboard sticker sheet.

2.30 Braille playing cards

Another fun one from the RNIB, Braille playing cards again show how accessibility features can be seamlessly added into everyday objects, in this case a pack of playing cards to enable a more inclusive experience no matter who is playing.

A deck of cards and a spread of four cards where the Braille embossing can be seen in the top left and bottom right corners overlapping the card number and suit.

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.

3.1 Books

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.

Life of Roy: Does He Take Sugar?

Richard Dunn,

Roy Hirst

3.2 Other paper documents

Alongside our growing library, the All Able Empathy Lab contains many other paper guides and handouts. We have:

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.

3.3 Watchlist

We often get asked about what is good to watch for disability content. Places like YouTube have a wealth of content creators who focus on disability content and we encourage people to follow those that speak about topics they are interest in. We also have a growing list of disability related content to watch on TV and streaming services.

Crip Camp

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.

Paralympics: The Unfair Game

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.

Rising Phoenix

Available on Netflix, the 2020 documentary looks at the history of and current Paralympic Games.

Mental: A History of the Madhouse

BBC 2010 documentary (which can be found in full on YouTube) looking at the closure of Britain's insane asylums.

Mission: Accessible

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.

All the light we cannot see

Netflix 2023 limited series. A work of fiction, the story of Marie-Laure, a blind French teenager, and Werner, a German soldier, whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II. In the series, Marie's father builds her highly detailed tactile maps of both Paris and Saint-Malo to help her learn her surroundings and navigate around town independently.

Sex Education - Season 4, Episode 7

Netflix 2023 series. A sub plot to this series was the barriers to education faced by Isaac, one of the cast who is a wheelchair user. The main issue is the lack of a working lift on the college campus. The lift once again not working and stopping Isaac from getting to his exam triggers collective action about the missing accessibility considerations at the college affecting different students.

Webbed Briefs

Heydon Pickering's collection of joke filled videos present many web topics in a flippant but easy to understand and compelling way. Topics such as; What is ARIA even for?, What are accessibility overlays?, and What happened to text inputs? are all great accessibility related watches.

A Silent Voice

Deaf representation has been noticeably growing in TV and film in recent years with noted appearances in big films like Marvel’s Eternals. A Silent Voice is a slice-of-life anime film from 2016 about a young man who is ostracized by his classmates after he bullies a deaf girl to the point where she moves away. Years later, he sets off on a path for redemption. The film includes some dark themes such as bullying and suicide but is an early example of a deaf main character and the day to day challenges they face.

A Sign of Affection

In stark comparison to A Silent Voice, this slice-of-life anime series is about another deaf girl and here infatuation with a guy who loves learning languages. It is a happier show that does a good job of presenting some of the communication challenges deaf people have in day to day life.

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.

Make Things Accessible logo