Accessing Accessibility

social-media-surgery-a5934d0b3ae82743dd3aa81330430883This week the BBC hosted the Central Birmingham Social Media Surgeries.  Volunteer surgeons came along to advise and assist patients.  Apart from the unfortunate medical terminology, this was an excellent and productive evening.  The BBC hosts were welcoming and inclusive.

My reason for attending was to get help to make this blog reach more people like myself who are familiar with the daily demands and strategies for living with VI (Visual Impairment).  My friend, Liz, also one of the surgeons, had introduced me with reassuring encouragement.

How right she was.  Emily, my surgeon for the evening, listened carefully, asked relevant questions and made easily understood suggestions, particularly related to links and buzzwords.  She linked me to Twitter and showed me how to search for other relevant sites.  Her manner was extremely pleasant and unpatronising.  The two hours I had been worrying about passed in a flash.  For other people in my position, I would strongly recommend Googling social media surgeries in your area.

I could not have imagined a better outcome and experience and I have asked Liz to contribute her perspective as my enabler to this blog.  (see below)  She also came up with the ironic title of this blog!

However, BBC please note that without Liz I would not have navigated my way through the Mailbox shopping mall to your 7th floor offices.  The journey involved a confusing combination of lifts and escalators and I cannot imagine how it would be for someone in a wheelchair.  Do the BBC employ any disabled staff?!  In the end we recovered our senses of humour and managed to find our way back out through an underground car park and into a happily familiar rain-soaked street.

Recommended reading for more information about the surgery can be found on the podnosh blog.

A note from Liz:

I’ve attended many Social Media Surgeries as a surgeon (by the way, I’m not sure the attendees are officially called ‘patients’ or if I invented that) and have helped all sorts of people and groups, and got a lot out of doing so. After all, I built my business via social media to a large extent, so I should know what I’m doing. I persuaded Bridget to go along, after having checked that it was relevant for her (the Surgeries have a remit to help community groups, but the fact that Bridget’s blogging about accessibility and VI and trying to help build links and help other people made her eligible), because, although I set up this blog for her and help her to post her articles, I was sure there were more things she could be doing.

After a bit of a brisk connection to the wireless network, we explained what we were after. I decided to sit with Bridget and listen to what the surgeon had to say this time, which led to some interesting experiences as Bridget sometimes couldn’t quite see what to do on her iPad and I couldn’t work one! But Emily and Dotty were extremely helpful and patient: we didn’t have too much thrown at us, and I think Bridget came away feeling more confident about Twitter and about being able to link in to disability communities and other VI bloggers.

I learnt one important lesson, which was to keep it simple and concentrate on one thing when being a surgeon. It was interesting to see the SMS from the other side, and I’m glad I did that. I was impressed by the chap who is responsible for outreach at the BBC and had set the session up, especially as he was really hands-on and even tidied up at the end.

Another lesson: while the staff at the BBC were friendliness itself and were accepting of our need to use a lift in the building, for example, getting there through the Mailbox was a nightmare. As a sighted person, I had trouble negotiating my way around, and I just could not work out how the lifts worked. Getting Bridget onto the escalator was quite fraught, and I felt worried, responsible and a bit of a failure for not finding the right way. I was also pretty cross that it wasn’t easier. What about someone negotiating this on their own? To be fair, on the way back a member of Mailbox staff did direct us to the correct lift, but why was this not signposted?

I was proud of Bridget for getting on with it and for attending the surgery. I could see how it could be a bit intimidating to think of going (not when you get there, of course) but the people at the surgeries are of course welcoming, accessible and committed to opportunities for all. These articles will now be automatically posting to Twitter, and we’ll work more on linking this blog to others in the same field.

Passing the microphone back to Bridget now! Thanks for the opportunity to have my say!

This entry was posted in Communication, low vision, technology and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Accessing Accessibility

  1. Liz, I enjoyed your additional perspective on our experience at the surgery. Clearly it eas a constructive experience for us both thanks to Emily and Dotty. As someone with VI and not all that computer literate I am lucky to have such a supportive enabler. Don’t worry about the navigation! We got there in the end thanks to you!

    • Thank you for your comment. It certainly helps to understand the learning process from another point of view. It was a really useful session and very empathetic teachers. Liz is always empathetic and patient.

  2. A good summary of the surgery from you both and thanks for the link Bridget. Like Liz I too recently was on the receiving end of a social media surgery for the first time. It was thoroughly enjoyable – but I can see how important it is to not overlaid the people we are helping.

  3. Pingback: Helping at the Social Media Surgery | Adventures in full-time self-employment

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