Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt

Your Accessibility Conscience

Accessible Recreation: A Personal Perspective

Filed under: Living with a disability — by Glenda at 3:54 pm on Saturday, May 30, 2009

Darrell using the wheelchair lift to board the Greyhoound bus Early Wednesday morning found both Darrell and I boarding a Greyhound bus to Whistler Village. After much effort, we were both loaded and our chairs securely strapped into the bus. By batting my blue eyes and stating that I had done before, I was able to stay in my scooter on the bus; otherwise, I would have had to switch over to a bus seat and my scooter stored below, which I could have done, but sometimes its more the principle of it – not everyone can get out of their chairs.

Telus Conference Centre in Whistler Two and a half hours later, along the Sea to Ski Highway that is still undergoing major reconstruction, we arrived safely in Whistler – a host city for the Olympic and Paralympic 2010 Winter Games.

A curb cut poorly designed and maintainedI understand that much work had been done to improve the accessibility of the village in preparation for the Paralympics. But, to be honest, I was less than impressed by what I saw. On the short walk from the bus loop to the Telus Conference Centre, the curb cuts were not well-defined and were in ill-repair. In the Conference Centre, I needed assistance to get around the tight corner into the washroom.

It is quite possible that I encountered the least accessible areas in an otherwise very accessible village. But, obviously, work is still needed before Whistler is invaded by an army of wheelchair users in less than ten months!

The reason for our day adventure was I had the pleasure of  presenting with Karen and Emese from the SPARC BC (Social Planning and Research Council of British Columbia) at the annual BC Recreation and Parks Association (BCRPA) Symposium. I presented my lived experiences with accessible recreation. All went well except for committing the presenter’s carnal sin: ran out of business cards. Ooops!

Presentation is offered below. Enjoy!

Visit Flickr for more photos from Whistler trip.

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

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What Technologies Do People with Disabilities Use to Read Blogs?

Filed under: Blog Accessibility — by Glenda at 3:11 pm on Thursday, May 21, 2009

While having the pleasure of hosting Tuesday’s Open Mic Night, where the topic was accessibility, one question asked was what technologies do people with disabilities use while using computers.

Such a great question! As bloggers, we see our readers when they leave a comment, whether typed or, on some blogs, via audio or video. Sometimes we see them in a tiny graphic or avatar.

But, for the most part, we don’t see how they are interacting with our blogs or what technology they are using. Some are at their home computers, others are on the beach with their laptops, while others are on their iPhones before they board the plane. Yet, others use specialized, and oftentimes very expensive, assistive technologies.

The following video introduces the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 in a fun, geeky way. But it also shows many of the assistive technologies that some of our blog readers may use. Which assistive technologies can you spot?

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

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A Day for Remembering Karen

Filed under: Living with a disability — by Glenda at 12:37 pm on Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Saturday, while working on my next presentation, I began tearing up. I felt the strong presence of my childhood friend Karen Greening. She had passed away years ago the Tuesday morning after the May long weekend. Doing the math, I realized it is twenty-five years ago today. Twenty-five years? How is that possible?

Karen was a few years older than me. She had severe cerebral palsy – she didn’t have any purposeful movement in her limbs, which were in constant motion, and she had no verbal communication. But she had beautiful blue eyes and a big smile.
We met when Mom began teaching Karen’s special ed class. Mom taught these non-verbal kids to communicate using Bliss symbols. Using a headstick, Karen was able to communicate, in a limited way, by pointing to the grid of Bliss symbols fastened to her wheelchair tray. She was also able to type, in the same manner, on a Smith Corona typewriter. It was painfully slow, but it was one of the few things she could do on her own.

Before the homework began piling on for me, I frequently took the school bus home with her on Friday afternoons to spend the weekend with Karen. It was the only time I had chocolate milk – such a treat! Mrs. Greening became my second mom.

Communicating was interesting; the two of us didn’t have lengthy, nonsensical chats. I couldn’t easily decipher a head shake from a head nod, so I had her roll her eyes for no, which she was great at doing. Like she understood Glenda-ish any better! Simply being together and watching television was often enough.

At some point, Mr. Greening built an in-ground pool in their large backyard. Strapped to an inner tube, the pool was the one place that Karen could experience independent mobility. She loved splashing about.

On summer days, Mom drove me and my three brothers over to the Greenings to spend the day in their pool. Karen loved watching the antics of the three boys. They kept her entertained. Spending the day with her was a good way to break up the boredom and loneliness that we both experienced during the summers.

Once I began high school, I rarely had a weekend free from homework. Time spent with Karen was limited to a get-together at Christmas and pool days during the summer. I felt like I was living two lives: my able-bodied life at a regular high school and my disabled life with Karen and horseback riding for the disabled, and the two lives hardly ever intersected.

In my first year of Grade 12, Karen, in her early twenties, was experiencing complications due to her scoliosis. Because of her back curvature, her food wasn’t digesting properly. Every night when Mrs. Greening put her to bed, she vomited. This lasted for months. Karen was scheduled for surgery to have a Harrington rod inserted to straighten her spine – a complicated yet standard procedure for people with limited mobility.

I vaguely recall both families getting together at Christmastime, 1983. Then Mom heard from Mrs. G a couple of times, saying Karen’s surgery date had been postponed yet again. Karen still wasn’t keeping much food down.

The next call came the Tuesday morning after the Victoria Day long weekend, while we were getting ready for school. That was highly unusual because our phone never rang that early. I immediately knew something was wrong. Mom told us the news once she hung up the phone.

Karen had had the surgery and had pulled through okay. She had even sat up a bit in the hospital bed. But, then, that morning she went into cardiac arrest. She didn’t pull through. She died

Understandably, I was quite upset with just losing friend. But, for some unknown reason, my family didn’t stop for death. Off to school I went, in shock and dazed. I told one friend about Karen’s death. With my Grad Banquet and Dance that Friday, the week was one hell of an emotional rollercoaster ride for me.

After that Tuesday morning, Karen wasn’t spoken of much again. Her parents, my second mom, were never heard from again, and there was no mention of a funeral or a memorial service. But I didn’t forget her. I know she is one of my guardian angels.

Over time I tried rationalizing that Karen became tired with needing everything done for her and she moved on to a place where she could experience complete freedom.

Then, while learning about anorexia in my psychology courses at university, I wondered if her nightly vomiting had the same effect on her body as an eating disorder would have had. Her heart wasn’t strong enough to withstand the surgical assault on her weakened body.

Now, I am thinking perhaps the reason why she died is a bit of both – or something else I yet to understand.

Whatever the reason for her death, Karen is never too far my thoughts, as is Chris – a family friend killed by a drunk driver, but that is another story. Today is Karen’s day to be remembered.

I have often wondered how Karen would have benefitted with all of this current technology. With head switches, onscreen keyboards, scanning software and so much more, what would she be capable of? Would there be a means to release all of her thoughts, opinions and ideas trapped within her beautiful head? Isn’t it ironic yet amazing how personal capability is dependent upon the current state of technology?

Karen, thank you for being one of my guardian angels. I remember you and feel your presence often.

Karen Greening, I speak your name. 

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

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Four Parties Contribute to an Accessible Blogosphere

Filed under: Blog Accessibility, Blogging — by Glenda at 11:27 pm on Friday, May 15, 2009

For the most part, when a ‘traditional’ website is developed, a team comes together to complete the task. Sometimes the team consists of the proverbial me, myself and I; other times the team is several people, with potentially an outsider with a specific expertise brought in. Either way, the team works together on the common goal and, when done correctly, accessibility is considered and implemented at each phase of development.

Blogs, on the other hand, differ in development in that four distinct yet separate parties are involved; they very rarely, if ever, come together and work as a team. However, each party impacts a blog’s accessibility (or inaccessibility), oftentimes without even realizing it:

  1. Blogging platforms – such as WordPress, TypePad and LiveJournal – have a double duty in terms of accessibility. First, the code produced by the platform, which is actually a content management system, should meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (or other appropriate guidelines). Accessible code benefits the blog’s readers. Second, the blogging platform interface – the part bloggers use when writing posts and such – should meet the Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines 1.0. Accessible blogging platforms benefits bloggers with various disabilities (from mild to severe).
  2. Theme designers control the blog’s layout, colour scheme, font sizing and such, which greatly impacts accessibility. If designers do not consider accessibility, many readers will be excluded from the community.
  3. Plugin and widget developers create functionality and ‘shiny objects’,enhancing blogs’ interaction and interest for readers. However, once again, if accessibility is not considered when developing these plugins, many readers are limited or restricted from benefitting from them.
  4. Bloggers begin blogging largely to share a expertise or a experiences or to create a voice for themselves. Bloggers blog to create content and to build a community.  Unlike website designers, many bloggers do not have training in html or style sheets. Further, some blogging platforms restrict bloggers’ access to their themes. These two factors limit bloggers’ impact on the accessibility of their own blogging community. Yet, there still ways in which bloggers can improve accessibility.

My goal is to work with each party to increase accessibility within their specific territory of the blogosphere. I’d love to begin with bloggers and to work with them to build the most accessible blogs possible within the constraints of being a blogger.

Here is where I’d love your input by taking this very quick poll:

{democracy:2}

Your input will help me to decide on the name for an upcoming project. Thanks!

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

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SOBCon Recap

Filed under: Blogging, Social Media — by Glenda at 1:07 pm on Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I have been home from Chicago for a week and I still have SOBCon: Biz School for Bloggers on the brain. For me, the experience was more about the people than what I learned from the content.

Interacting with people via blog comments or 140 characters at a time on Twitter and recognizing them by their tiny avatar is one thing, but being together in three-dimensions and being able to talk, laugh or cry together is something much more powerful; something that is often missing when we become more and more connected online.

SOBCon co-founder Liz StraussThe one thing that really awed me while I was looking around and taking in all of who was in the room: most of us were there because of one person. We either knew her directly, we knew someone who knew her or we admired what she does. Liz Strauss has built such a strong and connected community online, one relationship at a time, that 125 of us did whatever was necessary to come together at the same time, at one location, in the same room. Now, that is trust! And inspiring.

Glenda Watson Hyatt presentiing at SOBCon09, photo credit - Becky McCray As for my presentation “How POUR is Your Blog", well, I kinda rocked SOBCon! But, don’t take my word for it. Here’s what others were saying:

Thanks everyone!

Finally, my trip photos are now available on Flickr. As soon as I figure out how to collect the photos others took of me, I will post that link too.

Now, to implement what I actually did learn…

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