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Software for Empathy (Chrome Extension)

"You can only understand people if you feel them in yourself." – John Steinbeck

This is a Chrome extension for walking in someone else's shoes. It modifies the current web page to simulate conditions that you may not personally experience but that many people do; like poor vision, shaky hands, and so forth.

Created as an experiment in making a Chome extension and presented at Hack and Tell DC, April 2016.


  • Blurred Vision: As we get older and our eyeballs change shape, it's harder to read small text. This simulation is what that might be like. (Uses CSS to add 1px blur.)
  • Shaky Mouse: Parkinson's disease, a variety of palsies, and getting older can make our hands less steady. Web pages with small controls can be really hard to use; here's what that might be like. (Creates a fake mouse cursor and moves it with CSS.)
  • Dyslexia: One in 10 people has dyslexia. This simulation semi-randomly swaps certain letters and words, according to a variety of sources on what dyslexia is like.
  • Gender Pay Gap: In the United States, women make about 77% of what men earn. (Use on a page that has a price, like an product.)
  • English as a Second Language: One in five US residents doesn't speak English first; for them, complex sentences lose their meaning (as does a lot of nuance). This mimics that by machine-translating the page to Portuguese and back. (This simulation is temperamental and slow. Sorry about that.)


Unpacked Extension

  • If you downloaded the code, unzip the file.
  • Open (chrome://extensions/) or select the menu Window > Extensions.
  • Enable the developer mode at top right.
  • Click Load unpacked extension... and select the source code folder.
  • Enjoy!

Ideas For Future Modes

  • Bad Internet Connection: This can already be done within Chrome Developer Tools, but it'd be neat to make it a one-button experience.
  • Browsing in a Public Library: Put a 15-minute timer in the window and the computer shuts down. People lurking by providing no privacy. Your neighbor's looking at some weird stuff.
  • Censored by China: Block out certain words and phrases, like Falun Gong and the Dalai Lama.
  • Swap "Trump" and "Clinton": See what it's like from the other side of the political aisle.
  • Old computer: Lots of folks have old or very underpowered machines; web developers (and people who know how to install Chrome extensions) tend to have newer machines. Slow down the CPU by some amount to make it feel like your grandparents' old WinXP machine with the CRT monitor.


Want to help? Fork away!




A chrome extension for walking in someone else's shoes.






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