Text Zoom

Beginning in about April 2014 I started to experience the sensation that there was something in my right eye. I examined the eye in a magnifying mirror but nothing was visible. The feeling persisted. I wasn’t having any other symptoms so I just went about my business. By the summer the right eye was definitely different than the left eye. I attributed it to the prescription for my reading glasses. I am stoic. If I get a rare ache or pain, I debate so long about taking something for it that it usually goes away. The eye problem wasn’t going away, but I had many other things to attend to so I resized the text and moved on. I even bought an iPhone 6 Plus so I could get the text large enough. Note to site developers that don’t allow text resizing: I try to resize text and if resizing is disabled I immediately leave. Please note that what I mean is text resizing, not page zoom. I’m asking you to make sure that the text in your site reflows properly when the text is zoomed. If your site doesn’t allow that then I’m not reading your content. When my vision is better I’m still not using your site out of solidarity with those who need this basic accommodation.


“Cataract is the leading cause of blindness worldwide, and there are more than 24 million Americans age 40 and older who have cataract in the United States alone.”Leading Cause of Blindness Affects Millions by Prevent Blindness

I have a habit of seeing an eye doctor in November each year and by that time things were getting dimmer in addition to out of focus. In fact, by that time I couldn’t see any of the letters on the eye chart at all. With my left eye covered all I could see was a blur. The best correction could only get me to 20/50 in the right eye. I was diagnosed with cataract and got a referral to a surgeon.

Baloney Institute

When looking for a doctor I generally look for what I call a “mad scientist.” This is someone who is brilliant and can use techniques that no one else seems to know about, but is down to earth and probably a bit quirky. I have a brilliant periodontist who performed micro surgery under one tooth, saving it for another ten years. She competes worldwide with her agility dogs. My foot doctor takes his six dogs to the office every day but seems to come up with interesting new ways to keep my feet feeling great. Both of them have modest offices. So that’s what I was looking for when I fetched up at this very slick double-door-entryway suite with the two hundred thousand dollar interior. My eyes were immediately drawn to the black-clad hard-bodied staff all lined up behind the counter with perfect broad smiles each saying welcome in their turn. I was reminded of the siren scenes in “Ice Age: Continental Drift” which scored very low on the tomato meter but which my daughter loves.


The intake questionnaire was a brilliant piece of user experience chicanery. It was designed to funnel you down to the most expensive eye experience you could ever imagine. If it had one more question it would have been perfect: would you like your eyes to glow like Satan? After five minutes with the doctor I concluded that this was probably not the practice for me. On a break from the ordeal while he checked on my wallet biopsy I could see a patent award framed on the wall for something to do with lasers. With a broad grin at the results of the wallet biopsy he came back for the kill. The laser treatment was sure enough on his mind. I opted out. The look he gave me reminded me of the Taiwanese movie producer I held the movie negative on, forcing him to pay me. Joe, he said, what’s wrong? I thought we were one big happy family. I seem to remember that none of the other family members got paid, by the way. Anyway, when I opted out of the laser treatment and he agreed to use the ultrasound lens liquefaction method I could see the avidity die in him. Then, since the fancy interocular lenses were astronomically priced I opted out of all but a basic lens. When I arrived at scheduling I was told that because the ultrasound technique takes so long and is so involved that they only schedule it at the end of the day. This is unworkable for me since I’d have to be fasting all day. I was so done with them that I don’t think I had the opportunity to ungreet each and every smiley faced staff member on my way out.

Mad Scientist

After this I was at my periodontist for a cleaning and happened to mention that I was in need of cataract surgery. She produced a card for an eye doctor she uses. Aha! I made an appointment. There I learned that the ultrasound liquefaction surgery and lens implant procedure takes five minutes. I also learned that the top of the line Tecnis Multifocal interocular lens implant was far less than previously quoted. Plus, I suspected that this obviously smart woman was probably a mad scientist. I suspected this because she was personable and extremely capable and instead of having an assistant do it like at the Institute, she did the exam herself. She also explained what was going on.

Cataract Explained

She explained that the lens sits behind the cornea and the iris and is made of water and cleverly arranged protein to keep the lens clear but which can become clumped together causing cloudiness. Yellow-brown pigment is also deposited in the lens which will ultimately turn black causing blindness. My lens was dark honey colored, making it an advanced cataract. The doctor told me that years ago the only surgical technique was to remove the lens, letting unfocused light in. This happened to her mother, who was very incapacitated despite very thick glasses. Is this why she became an eye doctor? I find that many accessibility practitioners have family members or friends with disabilities and that’s why they got into the field. Fascinating.


Yesterday morning I reported for surgery. I found the procedure interesting. They put numbing drops in my eye and sedated me just enough so I didn’t feel anything but could still see. Then came the interesting part. I assisted at various times by looking at a gray spot in the center of a ring of light that surrounded the microscope they used to do the operation. I felt nothing. They were done in a few minutes. Old lens out, new lens in, and then back to recovery. I went home with an outsized bandage on the right eye with many instructions.

The Reveal

Today I saw the doctor at her office where she took off the bandage. The difference in vision in the eye is startling. Before the surgery I could only see a blur where the eye chart was, today I tested at 20/25 on the same chart. I can see clear bluish light whereas before, everything was cloudy and warm toned. My left eye, which was my good eye, is developing cataract and is now revealed to be very obviously cloudy and warm toned. Vision in my right eye will probably improve. There is a one month recovery time with many drops of three different prescriptions all day long. I probably won’t be skydiving at the CSUN conference, but then you knew that already, didn’t you?

You can talk with me about this or anything that happens to cross your brain on Twitter at @AccessibleJoe.

Aging Personas

In the early 1990s I was a computer trainer at a continuing education school in Ithaca, New York. A Smith Corona typewriter factory was in the process of closing and laying off over 700 workers. The adult education unit I worked for committed to retrain some of the displaced workers. I taught the classes. Most of the participants were older workers. One of them was 62. I’ll never forget her.

Remember to Breathe

The first two days were rough for her. We started out in a Mac lab, and she couldn’t do much of anything. Remember to breathe, I would say to her. I could get her to use Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing because she could type, but she couldn’t manage the program. During her intake interview she told us she had recently lost her husband who did everything for her including balancing the checking account. I decided that this might be the gateway to computing for her, I would teach her a very basic spreadsheet.

Lotus 1-2-3

In the corner of that lab sat an IBM 8088 personal computer. I loaded a copy of Lotus 1-2-3 and sat down with my student. I showed her how to input some numbers and add them up. I showed her the magic that happened when I changed one of the numbers and the total changed. She looked bewildered.

Enter. Now?

I had her sit at the keyboard and helped her perform the steps hand-over-hand. The insertion point was blinking, we were moving through the cells, we completed the formula, and then I told her to press the enter key. Here is how it went:

The enter key?
Yes, the enter key.
Which one is that?
(Me: pointing) this one.
That one?
(Me: pointing) yes, that one.
This one here? (now she was pointing to the enter key.)
Yes, very good, that one there.
You want me to press enter.
Yes, press enter.
This one?
That one.
And you want me to press it?
(Her: pointing) that one?
Yes, that one.
How come it doesn’t say enter?

She had me there. On an 8088 keyboard the enter/return key does not say enter. It has a down and left pointing arrow (↲) to represent the carriage return on a typewriter. I used a sharpie to write ENTER on the key.

That is the enter key.
This one?
That one.
And you want me to press it now?

Managing To Breathe

She finally did press it, but she held it. The result toggled back and forth. Fast. She kept holding the enter key, the result kept toggling. I suggested that she let go. It took some effort, but she finally did take her finger off the enter key. We both finally managed to breathe. She didn’t come back after the fourth day. We followed up, but she was firm, it was not something for her. That woman is one of the personas that I keep in mind when doing a project.

Aging Personas

According to Pew Charitable Trusts research, as of 2012, 53% of U.S. adults age 65 and older use the internet or email, 34% use social media, 69% own a mobile phone. According to U.S. Census data the number of people 65 and older is now over 40 million and projected to rise to 72 million in 2030. Are you using personas that cover this vast market? Please join me in conversation about this @AccessibleJoe.