I recently sat down with one of our volunteers to talk about improving methods for teaching CTN tutors to teach our learners. She had just returned from the CSUN Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference in San Diego. This event focuses on thinking about best practices in designing digital technology for people with disabilities. We started chatting, and what she wanted to talk about was Jamie Knight.
Jamie Knight, I learned, is a very successful web developer who is slightly autistic. He spends a lot of time thinking about communication — both between himself and everyone else and between technology and people along a continuum of cognitive ability. When I looked at the outline from the talk he gave, I found it impossible to not draw comparisons between his experience and the experience of many CTN learners. In trying to explain why people have different cognitive abilities, he says, “For me, it’s because I have autism. For others, it’s because they are tired, or in a rush, or an older user.” He discusses some specific attributes that he finds difficult when interfacing with computer, namely, lots of visual overload and overwhelming complexity.
Being confused and exhausted by a website is nothing new to most computer users, certainly not to new users or to CTN learners. Knight, however, offers a very clear description of how we engage with digital technology and where communication can become difficult. He also offers some constructive solutions to this breakdown, something for all of us to consider. I invite everyone to think about his ideas and employ them with the new computer users in their lives. Or employ them the next time you didn’t get enough sleep. Take a look at his website for Part 1 and Part 2 of his session notes.