Maria is 50 years old, married, and lives with her family in Madrid, Spain. She is the mother of two boys named Thomas and Miguel. Maria has macular degeneration, a disease that mainly affects central vision by causing “blind spots” directly ahead. The loss of central vision profoundly affects Maria’s visual functioning. For example, it makes reading quite difficult. She also has trouble distinguishing colours, specifically dark ones from dark ones and light ones from light ones.
A day in the life of Maria
When Maria was young she started to study economics at the Madrid business school, but she never finished her studies because taking care of her sons and studying at the same time was just too much for her. Now at the age of 50 she tries to finish her studies and started taking online classes.
Today she has to upload an assignment that involved the analysis of the financial data of a big European company; the deadline is tonight at midnight. She wanted to start on the assignment earlier, but her family, the household and her job would not allow it. Now it’s already 3 p.m. and she is really in a hurry to get things done.
Maria needs to gather the information online: she needs to run through reports about the company and the company’s website itself. As the blind spots in her vision have grown bigger and bigger over the years, she is now only able to somehow read the headlines of web pages, but she can no longer read the content without using assistive technology. She therefore uses magnification software, which enlarges a part of the screen so that she is able to read the enlarged text. The company’s website looks fancy, has a modern user interface and a lot of dynamic elements that change when you hover the mouse over them. However, in Maria’s eyes this site is a total nightmare. Because of the magnification, she only sees a very small area of the screen, which gives her a hard time to locate the information she is looking for. She is desperately trying to find the company’s balance from last year but is unable to find it. After half an hour she finds out that the link to this data only appears when she hovers with the cursor over a certain menu item. The link is positioned in such a bad place that she did not notice it at first.
To speed up things and to relieve her eyes, Maria uses text-to-speech software that reads the company’s balance report aloud. As she is really good at multitasking she is able to take notes while listening to the information. She is now making good progress with her assignment. At 11 p.m. she finally finishes her assignment and is relieved to have it finished within time. The only thing that she needs to do now is to upload the file to the online platform of the course. Maria has used the platform for several years now and knows the navigation and structure by heart, so she can navigate to the upload form in no time. Unfortunately, the upload page uses dark colours for both the background and the text, so Maria has a hard time distinguishing between background and content. Thankfully, a friend recently introduced her to a new piece of software that changes the contrast in a way that enables her to read the text. Ten minutes later, she has finished uploading the document and goes to bed — tired but happy to know that she finished the assignment in time.
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Text: © Copyright: Johannes Kepler Universität Linz and Université Paris 8, 2015. The text is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence (CC BY 4.0).
Image: © Copyright: The University of Southampton, 2016. This image is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence (CC BY 4.0).
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