During my digital literacy class, we had a guest speaker come in and discuss the topic of accessibility for all with us. As an exercise, with crayons in hand, we were asked to draw what we each thought was a representation of accessibility. She had mentioned that people she’s spoken to in the past would draw anything from computers to dogs. What did I pick?
At first, I got funny looks from the people sitting around me. I mean, I would have done the same if someone randomly showed me an illustration of mashed potatoes. But after a quick explanation, it made sense! (I even got a thumbs-up from someone sitting at a different table!)
Why I think mashed potatoes are a strong symbol of accessibility:
- It’s easy to eat. Unless you purposely make it/obtain it in its chunkier form, there is little-to-no chewing involved. People without teeth or those who have pains in their mouths and/or throats due to surgery or disease can easily consume this food without having to worry about hurting.
- It’s cheap. You can grab bags of instant potatoes for around a dollar at the grocery store. If you are currently going through tough times, mashed potatoes can keep you full, and they’re easy to spice up and change with various other ingredients you may already have on hand.
- It’s simple to make. For instant potatoes, all you have to do is measure out the mix and the water, pop it into the microwave, and bam! Done. Using actual potatoes, all you need to do peel ’em, boil some water in a pot until they’re soft, and smash them to your liking. For busy people who don’t have the time worry about making elaborate sides for dinner or people like the elderly who don’t have the stamina to stand around and cook for long periods of time, mashed potatoes are a quick and tasty way to keep themselves fed.
- Even with dietary restrictions, it’s a safe bet for most people! Vegetarian? No problem! Vegan*? Have at it! Got celiac disease*? Go for it! Rare potato allergy? Uh…skip it. But to everyone else: enjoy!
*If you have these restrictions, please be sure to check any other ingredients used in the recipe before consuming mashed potatoes in case they contain any additions that do not adhere to your personal dietary needs.
Through this exercise, I realized that thinking about what makes something accessible is fairly simple. Our guest speaker emphasized that when creating something – whether it be a computer program or a seating area at a baseball game – we as a society should design it with everyone’s needs in mind. If I can do it with mashed potatoes, anyone from user interface designers to architects can easily keep accessibility in the front of their minds as they go about their work. Making the lives of everyone easier, especially those with disabilities, should be one of humanity’s biggest priorities.
Can you think of any other ways mashed potatoes are accessible? Let me know in the comments!