EJ Mason talks about CP and how cramps impact internet use

EJ Tells us about how Cerebral Palsy and how it may cause cramps, forcing him to shift how he interacts with devices.


Thanks to Tenon for sponsoring the transcript for this episode.


Nic:    Hi, I’m Nic Steenhout. You’re listening to the Accessibility Rules soundbite. A series of shot podcasts where people with disabilities explain their impairments, and what barriers they encounter on the web.

Thanks to Tenon for sponsoring the transcript for this episode. Tenon provide accessibility as a service. The offer testing, training, and tooling to help fix accessibility fast.

Today I’m speaking with EJ Mason. EJ is an accessibility specialist with Pearson who does quite a bit of good work accessibility wise, and higher education.

Hi EJ, how are you?

EJ:    I’m great, how are you?

Nic:    I’m doing good. I’m really happy to speak with you. We’ve been interacting on Twitter for a while but finally, we get a chance to catch up.

EJ:    Right.

Nic:    So, EJ, tell me what’s your disability or your impairment.

EJ:    Alright, So I was thinking about this, and I realized I have quite a laundry list. So, stick with me for a second.

Nic:    Fair enough

EJ:    I have a form of Cerebral Palsy called Spastic Diplegia. Basically, that means my left side is not as good as my right side. I’m a bit weaker there. And, because of that, I’m prone to cramps, and things like that. I also have extremely near-sighted vision, and I’m hard of hearing. And I have undiagnosed ADHD.

Nic:    Right. Yeah, that’s a good lot of different conditions that would have an impact on your activity of daily living. But, since we are talking about web accessibility … what would you say is the biggest barrier you’ve experienced on the web?

EJ:    Well, I do have some privilege in that the web doesn’t have many show-stopping barriers for me but there are things I notice that can make my life very difficult. For instance, when I’m having cramps I become a keyboard user because I can’t hold the mouse very well. It hurts to do that. And so when people don’t make their websites easy to use with keyboards I can’t really accomplish tasks or it takes me a long time to wait and pick up my mouse again and finish the task.

Nic:    Yeah, you know, that’s interesting. I’ve been doing accessibility for nearly a quarter of a century now and I’ve never actually spoken with anyone who describes this concept of, you know, you’re a mouse user but when your disability means you are experiencing cramps you actually have to switch input. So, that’s quite interesting.

EJ:    Yeah, I think that many users are multimodal inputs of some kind. We switch from being desktop users to mobile users. We juggle mouse and keyboard all the time. Even people who aren’t powered users can pick up the keyboard and do stuff occasionally. But, sometimes I have to use the keyboard because it hurts to hold a mouse, and other things, I think, would be I have low vision. I have pretty good color vision, actually, but small text is pretty hard for me to see. So, I know if I can’t see something it’s a pretty big problem. If it’s too small or if it’s too low contrast. And that’s a big problem for me. Or, if I’m watching any video content… I can hear pretty well, I can hear what they’re saying to me, but when I’m watching content and there’s any kind of clutter I need captions because my brain does not process audio very well. So, I wouldn’t be able to have fun with videos on Facebook or Netflix if they didn’t have captions.

Nic:    Captions is definitely something that I think obviously benefits people with hearing impairments, but it’s so good for everybody.

EJ:    Right

Nic:    Everybody benefits from that.

EJ:    Yeah, if it’s too loud for you to hear you can still follow the content. Or, if maybe you… it’s a foreign language to you it’s a lot easier to understand what someones saying if you can also read what they’re saying.

Nic:    Yeah, and you want to watch a movie without disturbing the baby that finally fell asleep…

EJ:    Exactly

Nic:    …you can turn the sound off and read the captions. Yeah.

If there was one message you’d like web designers or web developers to remember about accessibility what would it be?

EJ:    You know, this is a really hard question. I’m sure that everyone you ask this question to might struggle with it a little bit. But, I think that it’s important to remember that people with disabilities come in a variety of packages they might not expect, and they might go outside the really common narrative of if someone is totally blind, if someone is a wheelchair user or someone is totally deaf. Those experiences are all really important but I think that if we forget that there’s a wide profile of people with a wide variety of barriers that we can miss a lot of things that can help people.

Nic:    Disability as a continuum. And, I guess in some ways this goes back to what we were talking about earlier where, you know, nobody is using a single input method. We’re switching from keyboard to mouse to trackpads to mobile to different methods… so I think that’s a good way to wrap up this conversation.

EJ:    Yeah, I agree. Thank you.

Nic:    EJ, thank you very much for your time, and for sharing that tidbit with us, and I’ll see you around on the web.

EJ:    Yeah, I’ll see you around. Thank you so much for your time.

Nic:    That’s it for now. Thanks for listening.

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