Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt

Motivational Speaker

Are You Preventing Customers from Entering Your Store?

Filed under: Accessibility 100 — by at 1:29 am on Friday, January 9, 2009

Accessibility 100 Our snowy roadAfter feeling incarcerated for nearly four weeks, Darrell and I escaped our house arrest, barely. Our street is still down to one lane, shared by cars and pedestrians. Being in wheelchairs, stepping sideways into the snow, out of the way of oncoming cars, is impossible. Navigating the road, while people are driving home after work would definitely not be safe.

Sidealk is partially covered by snow and partially shoveledOnce down our street, we discovered (though weren’t surprised) that cleared sidewalks were hit and miss. Some businesses had shoveled their sidewalks; others had not. Some curbcuts (ramps in sidewalks) were cleared, while others were not, making crossing to the sidewalk on the other side of the street unsafe.

Sidewalk covered with snowDarrell and I were able to get to Staples to exchange a faulty Christmas gift and to the mall for our monthly treat at Tim Hortons. Getting to the grocery store didn’t look promising.  Good thing we are still well stocked, thanks to Mom!

Wheelchair parking with curbcut blocked with snowDear Businesses,

When clearing snow, please also clear the curbcuts and all sidewalks around your property. Otherwise, customers using wheelchairs, walkers and other mobility aids and those unsteady on their feet cannot enter your store to spend money.

Thanks kindly,

Accessibility 100 is a series of 100 easy-to-implement, free and inexpensive tips for improving accessibility for people with disabilities. This is a community project. Feel free to leave your comments, questions and ideas for future Accessibility 100 posts.

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Combining Two Passions to Build an Accessible Blogosphere

Filed under: Blog Accessibility — by at 6:14 pm on Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A sample of HTML code One day while taking a pre-employment program for people with disabilities back in 1996, the computer instructor introduced me to HTML — the computer language used for developing websites — as a way to keep me busy and suitably challenged. I absorbed the material like a sponge and then asked for more. I soon realized that, even though the medical professionals labeled me as functionally non-verbal, I now had a way to communicate with the world (or, at least with those who had internet access). How liberating!

A couple of years later, while working at my one and only J O B, I stumbled across the concept of web accessibility. Like the brick n mortar world, websites create obstacles for people with disabilities, particularly for those using assistive technology. Having learned the basics of the screen reader JAWS and screen magnification software ZoomText for a previous project and feeling limited and disoriented using the technology, I appreciated some of the barriers people with sight impairments may face when navigating the web.

I discovered the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative and the then new Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0. I took a few online course through Equal Access to Software and Information (EASI) and joined the Web Accessibility In Mind (WebAIM) forum. Essentially, I soaked up everything I could about making websites accessible for people with disabilities; all kinds of disabilities.

I had been interested in physical accessibility and possibly parlaying that into some kind of consultancy, but traveling around, measuring the width of doorways and the height of grab bars didn’t seem a realistic career move. On the other hand, applying similar accessibility guidelines to websites from the comforts of my own home definitely had potential.

Accessible online communications became my business idea when I entered the Self-Employment Program. As the program came to an end, I landed my first paying gig: to develop guidelines for choosing colour schemes readable by individuals with colour blindness for a now defunct dot com company that was designing the provincial government’s website. I had no knowledge of colour blindness, and the nifty colour contrast analyzing tools didn’t exist back in the late 90s.

As I began digging into the issue, I discovered that little research had been done on it at that time. After asking questions via email of various people in the field, I developed guidelines for choosing colour schemes for people with colour blindness. The next project was to actually choose several colour schemes, which were then implemented on the Government of British Columbia’s website. That was quite a “heady” experience to visit the provincial government’s site and see my colour choices being used. I had accomplished something and had made a difference for those people who have trouble distinguishing different colours.

Several other gigs came along the way including writing the Simplified Web Accessibility Guide and co-writing its companion Accessible Online Labour Market Information: A Guide for Developers. I conducted several Web Accessibility Audits for various organizations and wrote several articles on web accessibility issues, some of which are listed in my virtual portfolio.

Over time websites changed and other programming languages were added to the mix. I felt like this red-headed chick wasn’t geeky enough to keep up with the pace of change. Although I was still passionate about making websites accessible so that people with disabilities could use and benefit from the web, I was less and less confident that I could provide clients with the depth of expertise they required and that one day I would be “found out”.

In my autobiography I’ll Do It Myself, I even shared:

Although I have done some interesting work and have become somewhat known in the web accessibility field, I don’t think I have yet hit my full potential. Because the work has been fairly sporadic, I feel it is time to explore other opportunities.

I then discovered blogging and set to learning as much as I could, only to soon realize knowing everything about this new form of communication is nearly impossible. I was quite content diving into this “passing fad” as one employment counsellor aptly called blogging. Yet, paying projects still landed in my lap without needing to chase after them. The most recent ones being a 2010 Olympic-related site and a public transit site in Toronto.

Darrell Hyatt, Lorelle VanFossen and Glenda Watson Hyatt at BlogWorld Expo in Vegas Fast forward to last September in Las Vegas where I met WordPress diva Lorelle VanFossen. Talking with her for the short time we had together, I sensed there was a great need for web accessibility within the blogging community. Individuals are attracted to blogging because it is a relatively easy way to share their stories and knowledge and to build a community of like-minded people. However, because many bloggers come to blogging with minimal, if any, web design experience, they are doing small things that unintentionally exclude individuals from their blogs; things that can easily be rectified.

Over the past few weeks I have decided to — rather than resisting the frequent pulls back into the web accessibility field — embrace those pulls and to share what I do know about web accessibility with fellow bloggers to build an accessible, inclusive blogosphere. To this end, I have several exciting plans to serve web accessibility to bloggers in 2009. My challenge will be serving it in a relevant and not-too-technical way. Stay tuned!

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7 Ways to Help Neighbours Shut in During Worst Canadian Winter in Years

Filed under: Living with a disability — by at 12:05 am on Sunday, January 4, 2009

View from my home office window a few snow falls ago

Today marked Week Three of being cooped up inside during the worst Canadian winter in my lifetime. The decorative strips in the windows are feeling more like prison bars.

Thankfully Mom brought in a load of groceries last Sunday. We have plenty of food for a few more weeks. And, we do have neighbours we can call on should we need anything.

Others with disabilities, particularly with physical disabilities, and seniors may be more isolated, even if they live in the city. Meals on Wheels haven’t been able to deliver every day, leaving many seniors without hot meals. HandyDART doesn’t run in some areas when it snows. Sidewalks and curbcuts are impassable, further restricting people from being out and about in their community.

Even though the tinsel and garland have been put away, please extend the Christmas spirit by checking in on your neighbours, especially those living alone. Let them know you would be happy to:

  • shovel the driveway and walkways,
  • fetch the mail,
  • take out the garbage and recycling,
  • pick up groceries (and prescriptions or medical supplies),
  • run urgent errands, and
  • prepare a few meals.

Talking over a cup of tea or watching a movie together can make the long winter days less lonely and isolating.

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My Word for 2009

Filed under: Blogging,Motivation,Social Media — by at 7:25 pm on Friday, January 2, 2009

Last year I followed Christine Kane’s lead in choosing one word to guide me through the year. Focus was my word for 2008. What I discovered about finding focus was interesting and quite helpful.

While 2008 was drawing to a close, I began thinking about my word for 2009. Should I stay focused to truly master it or should I move onto a new word?

I went about my daily stuff: checking my email, tweeting, responding to Facebook comments received via email, deleting email notifications of invitations to Kiss the Frog or Toss the Vampire and then declining them on Facebook. I remember screaming in my head, “This is bullshit! There has to be a better way.”

Being in these communities and using these tools is great. Friends, readers and even stalkers can reach me via the method they are most comfortable with: a Facebook comment or message, a tweet or DM on Twitter, a blog comment, or a good, old-fashioned email. Talk about accessibility!

I love being this connected and interacting with people from everywhere. However, there is only one of me; only one left thumb! I find it impossible to keep up, plus do the work that I actually do. I don’t like having 1376 emails in my inbox alone (of which 620 are unread), many of which deserve some kind of response; another 447 Twitter followers yet to follow and Facebook messages in my Bacn “emails I want but not right now” folder; and the list goes on.

There has to be a better way, I say!
A way to mash together
Facebook, Linkedln, Flickr,
YouTube, Viddler, and Twitter.
Please say its so!

This year I will search every
Megabyte, gigabyte, and terabyte
On blogs, wikis and tweets,
I’ll be emailing, DMing and PMing
My people, peeps, and tweeps
For wazoodles, widgets and gidgets
To follow, connect and friend
Friends, readers, robots too!

To be the best connector,
Inter-actor and communicator
With one left thumb
I will, I must streamline,
I say, in 2009!

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