Accessible elks

Arguing for the importance of accessibility - both within built environment and ICT, really isn’t that difficult; until you stand face to face with a tearful four year old in the ski tracks. The road to this family drama that took place sometime in February of last year has its explanations: my tedious complaints about the lack of accessibility in my surrounding and the fact that I am severely visually impaired.

Joachim Henstad

Title: Assistant

On the way to preschool

"Look here, Cedrick“, I said to my 4-year-old son and pointed to the ticket machine display at the metro station. "If the contrasts (I probably used the word colors) were clearer and the font size larger I would have been able to read what is written. Instead I have to learn the order by heart: down, up, down and then left" (no, I don’t want a receipt). "I agree" replied Cedrick, "everyone doesn’t see as well as I do". Today I have a monthly travel pass and avoid this problem, but that’s not the point!

"Take my hand", I said when the subway stopped. Cedrick glared angrily at me and flexed his thigh muscles. "I can do it myself!" he said and elegantly jumped to the platform. Only when he had landed safely the English-speaking travelers were warned of the gap between the train and platform “Please mind the gap”. "What are you doing, Dad? " "Looking for people on the track", I said with a smile "something must be done before it goes terribly wrong". "I agree," he replied, "everyone can’t jump as far as I can".

"Who is the text message from, turtle? " my son giggled. He knows that I need the surroundings to be dark when I read and write messages on the phone. I stuck my head out of the jacket and said "from mom" before I lowered myself into the darkness again. "Oh Dad, aren’t you ready yet?" " Sure", I lied. I had forgotten to squint when I stuck my head out of the jacket and had gotten the sun in my eyes. The message that previously had contained text and characters was now replaced with red and white stripes - thanks light-sensitive retinas, tiny click surfaces and poor contrasts! "Either I have to get myself a new phone or new filter glasses" "I agree," said Cedrick and put on his Spiderman glasses "Not everyone has the same cool glasses as I have".

Important notice from preschool

I smelled a rat when all the other parents brought two lunchboxes, thermos and seat pads to preschool. I turned to one of the teachers “I haven’t been notified that there was an outing today." "But the notice has been on the whiteboard for three days now". I brought Cedrick to the board to double check "Completely empty", I said. "I can see a few letters and a smiley," he said. I pressed my nose against the blackboard "I don’t have a chance to read light blue text on white background” (this is valid for both whiteboards and digital interfaces), "they have to get new colors. " "I agree," said Cedrick " I like to draw".

Elks and other pets

Six hours later the whole family gathered at Frognerseteren* fully equipped for going cross-country skiing. "You first," I said to my 13-year old daughter. My choice wasn’t random; her anorak was bright red and the easiest to follow, the ski tracks impossible to see (white on white).

It had started to get dark when I spotted a dog without owner further down the tracks. "What are you doing, Dad?" "Whistling for the dog, look!" My daughter looked in the direction of my pointing finger, "Dad, that’s not a dog, it's an elk." I squinted against the creature (who still looked more like man's best friend to me) to see if it was moving in our direction. "Dad," Cedrick said in a sad voice "what will happen to the elk?" I looked back at the troubled face and replied, "Nothing, I like the elk just the way it is." Cedrick gave a sigh of relief and said, "I agree."

* Frognerseteren is a neighborhood of Oslo, Norway, located within Nordmarka and a popular starting point for recreational hiking and skiing.

Related chronicles by Joachim Henstad

  • Stop patting my shoulder!

    26 January 2015

    Funka’s Joachim Henstad has stopped talking about his visual impairment, with this exception. He has grown tired of encouraging words and patting on the shoulder. ”Everyone who knows me knows that my bad days does not depend on my poor eyesight”.