Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt

Motivational Speaker

7 Wonders of the World of Disabilities

Filed under: Living with a disability — by at 11:48 pm on Thursday, November 27, 2008

In 2007, the New7Wonders Foundation revealed a new list of seven international representatives of historical human heritage, as determined by 100 million global citizens casting their votes. Intrigued and inspired, Exceptional Parent Magazine’s editorial staff what or who they would name to the 7 Wonders of the World of Disabilities. After spending the past year talking with leaders in the disabilities field, their list was featured in the November 2008 issue:

  • Landmark legislation the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) guarantees Americans with disabilities various rights under the law, including accessible housing, public buildings and a "free and public education’;
  • The communication breakthroughs of the creation of the Braille System and the use of Sign Language provide many with the ability to effectively communicate – a "paramount process in the human experience.
  • The Wheelchair provides the ability to be mobile and the feeling of freedom to those with physical disabilities.
  • The Special Olympics offer individuals with intellectual disabilities to develop self-esteem, strength and skills through competition.
  • Dr. Wolf Wolfensberger’s principles of Normalization and Social Role Valorization are part of the reason social services even exist today for people with disabilities. (These principles will take further reading on my part. I’ll share what happening learn in a future post.)
  • The U.S. Human Genome Project may "hold the answer to a multitude of questions about the many human genetic disorders that affect children and adults."
  • The medical breakthroughs of the Guthrie Test and the Polio Vaccine are "highly significant because of their historic qualities, their far-reaching impact, and the face that they represent discoveries that sought to prevent a disabling condition altogether or lessen its impact."
  • An honourable mention goes to Assistance Animals for their ability to assist and comfort individuals with disabilities.

The entire article is available on the New7Wonders website. Ironically, the article is presented as a series of images, making the text inaccessible to those using refreshable Braille displays, screen readers and other assistive technologies. (I merely shake my head. What else can I do?)

Special thanks to my friend Loree for bringing this article to my attention!

What do you think of this list? What would you add or change?

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In the Dark

Filed under: Living with a disability — by at 6:12 pm on Saturday, November 22, 2008

Watching last night’s 6 o’clock news, I knew we were in for a wind storm. I’m not sure what it is about the spot where we live; the transformers must be in vulnerable positions or something. When there are wind warnings for the Lower Mainland, we typically lose power.

While Darrell was putting an early supper on the table, I sent the following tweet at precisely 6:39:17:

Message on Twitter: Wind is starting. G'night friends.

The power went out by 7. Thankfully, we were pretty much finished supper by then. We grabbed our handy flashlights, including the hand-crank light/radio from my Dad, which we hadn’t used yet.

With no computers and no television and with Friday night being "Us" night anyway, we decided to go to bed and listen to Delilah until Darrell got tired of cranking the radio. (Thanks Dad, that worked great!)

I don’t mind thunder and lightening. I tolerate the endless pouring rain (from inside). But I really don’t like the wind! I cringed every time it howled and made Darrell hold me, close.

With the beginning of the winter season, it is time for Darrell and I to begin hibernating, except for necessary trips out. Power outages are more than a mere inconvenience for us. Living on the third floor, we rely on the elevator to get home. No power, no elevator. If we (or one of us) happen to be out when the power goes out, then we are stranded. And, there are our power chairs that need power to go! Darrell uses his manual wheelchair inside, so he is ok, and with no elevator he won’t need his power chair to go out. But I use my small scooter inside. If the power outage lasts for a day or more, I could be hooped. (Note to self: start charging this chair nightly.)

Please forgive if we don’t accept many invitations at this time of year. Going out in the dark, cold, rain and wind isn’t safe. Forget snow!

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Life with Cerebral Palsy: A Master in Applied Disability Studies

Filed under: Living with a disability — by at 5:35 pm on Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Saturday I received an interview request from Fernanda for an assignment for her Masters degree in Applied Disability Studies at Brock University. I concurred. I asked if I could share the interview with my blog readers. She concurred.

1. How was your parents’ reaction when they found out that their baby had Cerebral Palsy?

Initially, they were understandably shocked with the complications of my birth and the following few days. Then they were fairly matter-of-fact; this is the situation, what do we do to make the most of it? The official diagnosis came later. By then, they knew I had some kind of disability. Mom might have even known it was cp. The diagnosis gave them confirmation and a label that Mom then began researching at the medical library at the University of British Columbia where she was a student – she was in Education, getting her specialty in Special Education.

2. How was the support from the rest of your family?

My family has always been very supportive. I’m not sure my Grandma (my Dad’s mom) fully understood, but she did accept me in her own way.

3. Did your parents have any kind of difficulty to register you in a regular school?

I began my schooling in a special education class and was gradually integrated into a regular class. Beginning in Grade Eight, I attended our local high school. Near the end of Grade Seven, I went through some testing with the school psychologist, which I didn’t think was fair since my fellow classmates didn’t have to go through the same testing. The results were to convince the high school staff that I was capable of handling the regular curriculum. Once I began Grade Eight and had proven what I was capable of, their concerns dissipated. Being on the Honour Roll my first semester clinched it.

4. Did you have any problem to be accepted in your school and/or in your community?

For the most part, I didn’t have a problem with other kids teasing me in high school. When I started in Brownies back in elementary school, the girls fought over who would push my small red wheelchair. They saw it as a special privilege. A few friendships from high school and Brownies/Girl Guides still exist today. Those ones are dear to me.

5. Did you ever asked why me?

No, no really; at least not for any length of time. I see my cerebral palsy as something that is. No amount of crying and self-pity is going to change that fact. I might as well as get on with it and make the most of what I do have. There is so much I can do; I try to focus on that.

6. In your daily life, you face challenges all the time, simple things that we take for granted like open the door, turn the lights off and other rather mundane tasks constitute a challenge for you. Where do you find strength to fight and don’t get bitter?

Yes, simple things can be frustrating, even extremely frustrating at times. I keep trying until I get it or find a way around it. Otherwise, I would be sitting in the dark!

In the really tough moments, I think about my Nanna (my Mom’s mom). She had bone cancer. She crawled up and down the old wood stairs to do the laundry in the basement. I figure if she could do that, then I deal with my minute frustration or pain in the moment.

7. Can you tell me if you had any kind of situation in your life that made you feel really angry and/or upset with society?

Searching for a job was tough. All of my life, I had been told to try my best and to work hard, and that I could do anything I wanted. My disability didn’t matter. But when I went for interviews, it felt like the employers couldn’t see beyond my disability to see my abilities, skills and talents. They didn’t give me the opportunity to try and to prove what I could do. That really hurt and was very discouraging.

8. What do you think that politicians and big companies should do to help people with disability feel included in our society?

There is so much they could do to include people with disabilities in society. Briefly, two main areas are:

  • accessibility, in every possible way – from infrastructure (buildings, transportation and community planning) to health care, to web accessibility, to access to services, to product development, to the electoral process and the list goes on; and
  • meaningful job creation and employment, with adequate supports and opportunities for further training and career advancement.

9. When did you have the idea to write your autobiography?

When I was ten, I read books like Joni, Other Side of the Mountain and Ice Castles, which about people with disabilities; actually, young women with disabilities. At that time, they were my only role models with disabilities. I decided that one day I would share my life to help others in a similar way. Thirty years later I self-published I’ll Do It Myself.

10. What makes you feel free?

Driving in my scooter with the sun and a big smile on my face – and plenty of accessible sidewalk!

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5 Things You Might Not Know About Me

Filed under: Blogging,Social Media — by at 6:38 pm on Tuesday, November 18, 2008

In the latest meme – the blogosphere’s version of the game of tag – Dominick Evans tagged Chris Brogan. Chris tagged me. By accepting the tagging for this particular meme, I am obligated to share five things about myself that you might not know. I don’t know what you don’t know about me. So, I asked my friends and this is what resulted:

Jacqui asks my shoe size

My friend Jacqui from Facebook asks my shoe size.

Ah, shoes – another essential that is difficult to find ones that I can put on myself! When I do find them, I wear a size six. However, when I do wear my AFO, I need a men’s size seven wide. How clumsy!

A question submitted via Twitter

Fellow Tweeter @mpstrax (aka David Miller) asks what I do in my spare time.

Well, that’s assuming I do have spare time! But, when I do take a break from my computer, I do enjoy spending time on my patio, tending to my plants. I love when they begin blooming. I enjoy going for long walks (as long as there is an accessible sidewalk or pathway)and exploring what is around the next corner. I enjoy curling up in bed with an issue of O Magazine.

Shona submits a question via Facebook

Shona, my friend since Grade Eight, asks what is my favourite, most sinful meal.

It would definitely involve salmon and/or prawns dipped in garlic butter. Mmm. And something chocolaty for dessert, of course!

Robert's questions submitted via Twitter
My Twitter buddy @roberthruzek, who I am looking forward to meeting at Sobcon09 in Chicago next May, asks two questions. Actually, he has asked ten but I’m choosing to answer two at the moment moment. First, are there any insects I positively hate?

Hmm, none that I have encountered to date! I could easily do without mosquitoes. When I do spend time on my patio in my spare time, I like watching the bugs, as long as they aren’t eating my plants! And spiders…whoa…their webs are amazing! How does all that fine thread come out of their butt or wherever it comes from? But then, I patted a Boa Constrictor in Grade One and there was that incident with the bull!

Second, Robert asks what star I love the most.

I’m not up on astronomy; that is something else I would love to learn about. The only individual star that I can recognize is the North Star: big, bright and bold! It has been the guiding light for many through time. I’m sure I can’t go far wrong by following that one.

Thanks, folks! I would have never thought to share this with you. Doing a meme this way was definitely more fun.

Now, in meme-style, I must tag five people to share five things about themselves that others may not know. I am tagging Karen Putz, Todd Jordan, Suzie Cheel, Giovanna Garcia  and Jaffer Maniar and ask that they link back to the one who tagged them.


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9 Ways to Finding Focus

Filed under: Motivation — by at 12:22 am on Friday, November 14, 2008

At the opening of 2008, I chose FOCUS as my one word for the year

To me, FOCUS entails minimizing my technologically-induced ADHD, de-cluttering and simplifying my surroundings, multi-tasking only when appropriate – tasks requiring my full attention will receive it. With FOCUS, I feel I can accomplish more of why I was put on this earth, and that will create inner peace because I’m doing what I’m meant to do. In turn, that will create a variety of wealth. I’m sensing FOCUS will be quite a powerful mantra for 2008.

I confess that I spent much of the year faltering and beating up myself for not focusing. I didn’t know why I had the attention span of a two-year-old. Occasionally I would find my groove, only to falter again. Telling myself to sit down and focus didn’t cut it for me.

With 2008 nearing the end, I think I have finally figured it out! It’s not about imagining my Mom saying "Now, sit down and get to work" like she would instruct her Grade One students. It’s not about repeating FOCUS a million times in my head.

For me, being able to focus means setting up the right environment, externally and internally, so that I can focus. This means: 

  1. Having the right tools for the job! This sounds so simple, yet this has made an unbelievably huge difference for me. Instructional posts were taking me hours to create, with minimal reward. Similarly, for the Do It Myself Blog, I was writing the posts in Microsoft Word and then hand-coding in WordPress, which meant I wasn’t  writing as many spontaneous posts as I would have liked. Since discovering SnagIt and then Windows Live Writer, blogging has become fun again and I am able to write an entire post before my attention span and patience expires. Even my new wide screen monitor has meant I can have two applications open side-by-side, which saves flipping back and forth. Screen shot of my blog and Windows Live Writer open side-by-side
  2. Turning off noise. I have discovered that, even though I receive close to 100 emails per day (most of which are spam), only a few of them are addressed to me personally and even less require an immediate, if any, response. Although it is a tough habit to break (one I’m still working on ), I do not need to check my email constantly. I can close Outlook and know that the world will continue without me for a few hours.
  3. Limiting networking tools. Even though it is easy to get distracted by shiny new objects, I have resisted the temptation of Plurk, and countless others. Rather, I have purposefully chosen to stick with Twitter and StumbeUpon, and, to a lesser extent, Facebook and Linkedln. This summer’s online course helped me to master StumbleUpon and to use it more effectively. I would like to find a similar course for Linkedln. Finding ways integrate these tools, such as feeding my Twitter tweets and my blog posts into my Facebook page allows me to streamline my networking.
  4. Working on one task at a time. Contrary to popular belief, multi-tasking does not work or, at least, it doesn’t work for me. I am finding working on one task at a time, either until the task or a particular step is finished or for a specific amount of time, is more effective and allows me to focus all of my attention and energy on the one task on hand.
  5. Glenda's completely organized bookcase and areaDe-cluttering my space. For the last two Saturdays, I have been purging and organizing my office. It has been so liberating. Seeing the organized bookcase with space to spare gives me an energy boost and feels like a weight has been lifted; a weight that no longer requires my attention and focus, freeing them up for other more important things. I plan on continuing this office makeover, one step at a a time, one Saturday at a time.
  6. Prioritizing what is most important and committing time to doing it. Right now, I have 510 unread emails and 1080 items in my Inbox alone. One day getting my Inbox back down to 0 yet again will be a priority and I will set aside to do it. For now, the number of emails in my Inbox or zombie invitations in Facebook is not important. For now, for today, I am going to focus on what is most important.
  7. Taking a break away from my computer.  Spending time away from my computer doing something physical, whether its exercising, washing the dishes, organizing my office (with my monitor turned off!) or getting out of the house, enables me to return refreshed and re-energized and able to concentrate on one task until it is completed.
  8. Allowing empty space in time. Like the empty space on my bookcase, I have realized it is okay to have empty space in time to think. When I am writing and am unsure of the next word, the next sentence, the next thought, it is okay to stop and to listen for that voice that guides my writing, rather than filling that void with distractions from email or Twitter. Stopping to be still, to wait and to listen is perfectly okay.
  9. Not being too busy. In September’s O Magazine (p. 166-7), Norman Fischer shares: "Being too busy or not being busy is an interpretation of our activity. Busyness is a state of mind, not a fact. No matter how much or how little we’re doing, we’re always just doing what we’re doing, simply living this one moment of our lives." When too busy or overwhelmed, stop and connect, in Zen Buddhist tradition, with "the one who is not too busy".
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