Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt

Your Accessibility Conscience

Going Beyond Social Media to Connect Deeply

Filed under: Living with a disability, Social Media — by Glenda at 4:06 pm on Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Glenda Watson Hyatt and Lorelle VanFossen laughing it up Darrell and I are enjoying Lorelle VanFossen’s company following WordCamp Whistler (a day long session on using the blogging platform WordPress). While the snow falls yet again, we are having an intimate WordCamp Hyatt – you may notice some changes on my blog, and we’re having great conversations – many of which are unbloggable! But there is one story that is safe to share:

Lorelle and her husband spent six years in Israel. The first year in the country, Lorelle struggled with the language, carefully choosing her limited Hebrew to communicate her message. Without being able to communicate freely with others around her, a feeling of isolation crept in As time passed, her Hebrew became somewhat more fluent and the isolation began melting away.

Returning home to the United States, Lorelle was relieved to hear English all around her. She no longer had to struggle to make her point known in a few precious words. She could freely speak, using as many words as she liked. However, she then became aware of how much of the spoken word is wasted breath. People may utter many words without saying anything at all.

Exactly!

I now knew she understood how much of a struggle it is for me to speak Glenda-ish around others who don’t understand Glenda-ish; how much I struggle to find clear words to get my point across. But when I’m with people with a Masters in Glenda-ish, I can talk off their ears for hours!

I am also amazed by the wasted words people speak. To me, those unnecessary words are such a waste of precious resource. Why do few people think before they open their mouth? Could this resource not be used more productively, more efficiently, more lovingly?

While the three of us were sitting in Darrell’s office, talking, another equally valuable realization struck. All of this social media is awesome for meeting people and for maintaining surface relationships. Having all of these tools to connect with hundreds or even thousands of people is empowering and liberating. However, intimate face-to-face time is when the deep connections are formed and memorable moments are made.

Regardless of the number of Twitter followers, Facebook friends or StumbleUpon subscribers, the time spent snowed in with Lorelle talking, laughing, eating and forming a deep connection will be a cherished memory for years to come.

My advice to you: close TweetDeck, turn off your iPhone and take some time have a meaningful conversation and laugh with someone dear to you. Make a memory, today, that you will cherish for lifetime.

If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a cafe mocha. Thanks kindly.

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Web Accessibility Not Only for People with Disabilities

Filed under: Blog Accessibility — by Glenda at 1:59 pm on Wednesday, January 21, 2009

While ringing in the New Year, I had for the first-time ever a clear vision and direction for the year: to share what I do know about web accessibility with fellow bloggers to build an accessible and inclusive blogosphere. But, what is web accessibility?

For the most part, people understand the need for ramps, elevators, high contrast signage, flashing fire alarms and the such to make the physical world accessible to people with all types of disabilities. But accessible websites? Isn’t surfing the web simply “point and click”? For some individuals, no, using the web is not quite that simple.

Like how people may enter your store using a wheelchair, walker, crutches or a guide dog, readers may visit your blog using assistive technologies (specialized hardware and software), mobile devices (i.e. iPhones and Blackberries) or even a dial-up connection.

Web accessibility enables all individuals to utilize websites and blogs, regardless of their personal capabilities or the technology they use.

Physical accessibility also benefits people without disabilities; for example, how many delivery guys hit the automatic door opener rather than trying to hold the door open while wheeling the cart through? Or, how many parents pushing baby strollers welcome curbcuts when crossing the street? Similarly, web accessibility also benefits people without disabilities.

Last month social media strategist Chris Brogan, who lives and breathes the web, sent the following sarcastic tweet when the Flash version of his bank’s website would not load for some unknown reason:

Message from Chris Brogan: My bank's stupid flash website isn't rendering, so I can't find info. Useful. Flash is so useful as the "meat and potatoes."

Because his bank also had a HTML-only version, an accessibility must for these types of situations, I found him the link and Chris was able to access the information he needed. (Note: perhaps the link to the HTML version needs to be in a more prominent location!)

Web accessibility benefits nearly everyone without most people realizing it until they cannot do something they want to.

If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a cafe mocha. Thanks kindly.

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Why Barack Obama’s Inauguration Fills Me with Hope

Filed under: Living with a disability — by Glenda at 12:32 am on Tuesday, January 20, 2009

On the eve of Barack Obama’s inauguration, I find myself reflecting upon the significance of an African-American becoming President of the United States.

I humbly admit that I do not know what it is like to be discriminated against and discounted solely because of the colour of my skin. I have not experienced racial segregation or the humiliation of being forced to use a side entrance because I am seen as less than a person. I have not personally witnessed the atrocities committed against the Blacks.  I have not felt the sting of systemic racial inequality in the workforce.

However, I do know what it is like to be discriminated against and discounted solely because of my disability – or perceived disability. I have experienced segregated classes and programs specifically for the disabled. I have experienced the feeling of less than when using an accessible entrance around the back. I have been sickened by the appalling treatment of far too many people with disabilities. I face the sting of living below the poverty line and being on social assistance, for now.

If an African-American President can reside in the White House, empowering all African-Americans and quashing racial discrimination, then hope exists that discrimination based on disability can also be overcome and we can all be “judged on the content of our character”.

In his speech on Sunday from Lincoln Memorial, President-elect Barack Obama spoke these words, filling me with hope:

…a belief that if we could just recognize ourselves in one another and bring everyone together – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents; Latino, Asian, and Native American; black and white, gay and straight, disabled and not – then not only would we restore hope and opportunity in places that yearned for both, but maybe, just maybe, we might perfect our union in the process….

Together, yes, we can!  

If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a cafe mocha. Thanks kindly.

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WordPress 2.7: A Brief Accessibility Review

Filed under: Blog Accessibility, Blogging — by Glenda at 10:52 pm on Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The past couple of weeks, Darrell and I have been giving his website an extreme makeover (no link because it isn’t quite ready). We have been using WordPress 2.7, which has given me the opportunity to get a feel for it before upgrading WordPress on my own blog.

In the short time I have been using the latest version of WordPress, I have discovered a few issues that can easily be remedied to further increase the accessibility of the most popular blogging platform. 

Colour Contrast

After the initial disoriented feeling of a completely redesigned dashboard (main controls page), the first thing that struck me was the colours. They are rather subdued, without much distinction.

Pulling out the colour contrast analyzer on the nifty Web Accessibility Toolbar, I tested several of the colour combinations on the page. Some did not pass the contrast test necessary for enhancing readability.

Samples of the colour combinations used in WordPress 2.7

With some digging, I found the option for changing the colour scheme (Users > Your Profile > Personal Options):

WordPress 2.7 offers two colour schemes - blue and gray

Switching to the blue scheme does more easily distinguish the various sections. However, some of the colour combinations still do not maximize colour contrast to enhance readability.

With such a customizable dashboard, the option for bloggers to choose their own colour scheme to suit their particular needs and tastes would further increase and improve the customization of WordPress.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Poking around further, I discovered keyboard shortcuts had been added to the visual editor used for writing posts. For someone who relies on the keyboard, these shortcuts makes life easier.

Searching the help, I could not find a list of available keyboard shortcuts, except the ones for comment moderation. Unless I have missed something, the only way to discover the shortcuts is to hover the mouse over editor buttons, which defeats the whole purpose of keyboard shortcuts.

The keyboard shortcut for bold

The keyboard shortcut for Bold is given as Ctrl / Alt + Shift + B. I have never seen a “/” in a keyboard shortcut before. What does it mean? Do I actually hit “/”? Does it mean either the Ctrl or the Alt? I could not figure it out for the life of me. Out of sheer frustration, I tried the Bold shortcut that most other PC programs use: Ctrl + B. It worked! The standard Ctrl + I worked for Italic.

No keyboard shortcut shown for underline buttonAlthough a keyboard shortcut is strangely not given for Underline, the standard shortcut does work: Ctrl + U.

A list of functioning keyboard shortcuts available in WordPress 2.7 would be helpful. Even sweeter would be if that list was visible while writing a post.

Images

After upgrading my blog to WordPress 2.5.1 a while ago and being baffled by the “Add an Image” dialog box, I was hoping the 2.7 version would be more straightforward. No such luck. They are essentially the same.

When I uploaded an image for test purposes, the 2.7 version showed the full image (rather than a scaled size, completely messing up the rest of the box:

A screen shot of a portion of the "Add an Image" dialog box

Screen shot of the "Add an Image" dialog box in WordPress 2.5.1 Using the 2.5.1 version for guidance, I am assuming the three text boxes are for entering the Title, Caption and Description. From here, the Title, whose default is the filename, becomes the image title; the Caption becomes the alterative text <ALT>; and the Description seems to disappear and is pointless. Confused yet? I am!

The code comes out as:

<img src=”http://enablingabilities.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/glenda-watson-hyatt-oct08.jpg” alt=”Glenda Watson Hyatt” title=”glenda-watson-hyatt-oct08″ class=”alignleft size-full wp-image-79″ />

The thing that really bugs me is, in the “Add an Image” dialog box, the Title is marked as a required field, not the Caption that becomes the ALT: a crucial piece in web accessibility.

It is the ALT text that enables an individual using a text-to-speech screen reader to hear what an image is; not the TITLE. It is the ALT text that appears on the webpage when an image does not load; not the TITLE.

To encourage bloggers to provide an ALT for every Image, make the Caption a required field; better yet, name the field what it is – the Alternative Text.

With these and other changes, Matt Mullenweg and his development team will continue strengthening WordPress’ commitment to accessibility.

If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a cafe mocha. Thanks kindly.

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Canada’s Registered Disability Savings Plan – The World’s First!

Filed under: Living with a disability — by Glenda at 2:52 pm on Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Living on social assistance is like living in a perpetual catch-22. If you are thrifty enough to save a few dollars a month, you can’t officially save it because then that means the government is paying you too much and your benefits are reduced accordingly. Yet, occasionally you have expenses (say, a $1895 scooter and a $4300 paint levy for your condo) that social assistance doesn’t cover, but that you still must pay. Also, any sizeable financial gift from a parent or friend for said expense gets deducted from your monthly cheque. This leaves you resorting to creative financing (choosing my words carefully) and a few sleepless nights.

Until now.

Thanks to years of tireless effort by the Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network (PLAN), Canada has introduced the world’s first Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP):

a savings plan designed specifically for people with disabilities in Canada. The first of its kind in the world, this new tax-deferred savings vehicle will assist families in planning for the long – term financial security of their relatives with disabilities.

According to PLAN, a RDSP is similar to a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) and “is designed specifically for people living with a disability. It allows anyone already eligible for a disability tax credit to invest savings tax-free until withdrawal, up to a lifetime limit of $200,000. Friends and family members can also contribute to the RDSP of a loved one.”

To encourage Canadians with disabilities to open RDSPs, the Government of Canada has established the Canada Disability Savings Grant and the Canada Disability Savings Bond, which will match eligible contributions, significantly increasing the savings in a plan. (The Canada Revenue Agency provides further information on RDSP.)

For British Columbians with disabilities living on social assistance, the pot became a little sweeter today with the provincial government announcing the Endowment 150 Fund which “will allow any British Columbian on income assistance to apply for $150 once they have set up an RDSP with $25.  This initial investment has the potential to leverage  a grant of $525 and a $1,000 federal bond. Within one year, clients can earn $1,700 plus interest from their original investment of just $25.”

The deadline for 2008 contributions has been extended to March 2, 2009. Currently, the Bank of Montreal is the only financial institution, outside of Quebec, offering RDSPs. The Vancouver City Savings Credit Union is developing a product, but it may not be available in time to make 2008 contributions. Other financial institutions are also likely in the process of developing similar products. However, only contributions made by March 2nd will be eligible for the 2008 matching funds by the federal government.

A word of caution: as with any financial investment, read all of the fine print and details, and talk with a reputable person to make sure a RDSP is right for you or a loved one with a disability.

Watch the Registered Disability Savings Plan Blog for the latest updates and information.  (Tip: “Subscribe by email” to receive the updates in your inbox. It saves constantly checking the blog.)

If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a cafe mocha. Thanks kindly.

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