Accessibility Awareness


Contributor: Bob Parson (


Piece of paper for each participant


In a classroom , everyone has a blank piece of paper. Tell everyone to copy the instructor. Tell one half of the group to close their eyes or turn the other way.

Hold up the piece of paper. Begin folding it in different ways, describing the action as you do it. Include a couple of actions that will remove a small section or make a hole in your folded paper.

When finished, ask everyone to face front and to unfold then show their piece of paper.

'Berate' the half of the class that failed so badly (the ones who only heard the instructions and couldn't see) then have a reasonable discussion about the underlying pedagogy.

Special Notes:

Modifications to deal with cultural differences.

I used this as an accessibility exercise combining cultural issues to a certain extent. In the half that is handicapped by the limits on their ability to see the whole of the exercise, add some different elements, not just 'turn around' or 'close your eyes'. These instructions could be pre-written and handed out to individuals.

For example. In culture X it is very uncomfortable to meet the facilitator's eyes. Each time that happens, lower your head for thirty seconds. In culture Y, failure if of great significance. When the 'correct' answer is shown, anyone who got it wrong leaves the room.

Some participants will be 'blind'.  Some participants may talk or mumble, at a volume that may impact their peers sitting right beside them.

Some people may hum, at a volume that prevents them from hearing.

Some people, if asked to turn their back on the instructor may have to leave the class because they feel they are being so disrespectful.

Some pairs could be formed that share one piece of paper: but in pairs that include both genders, one of the pair refuses to work with the other.

The point is to open us up to how these changes in action affect our results - without any indication of actual abilities. To discuss what sort of workarounds are required to level the playing field and to evaluate those workarounds in terms of value or effectiveness.

Acknowledgements: Adapted from an original workshop run by Erika Kustra and Paula Borin


Chickering, A. W., and Gamson, A. F. Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education. Racine, WI: The Johnson Foundation, Inc/Wingspread, 1987


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