Glenda Watson Hyatt shares her
experiences living with cerebral palsy to
motivate and inspire others to think about
how they perceive their own situation and
their own world around them. She does all
this by typing with only her left thumb!
Read Glenda's Book - available in paperback and on the Kindle!
Self-publishing my autobiography I’ll Do It Myself was the realization of a thirty year old dream. For thirty years that dream was my North Star.
Since launching my autobiography in December 2006, I have been without that North Star to guide me. Yes, I have had list of goals. But, looking at that list, except for “my still secret project”, which has the potential to go big if I would only get on with it, there’s nothing on that list that really grabs me and guides me in an all-consuming way.
A culmination of several recent events – watching more sports during the 2010 Olympics and Paralympics than I ever have in my life, touching the gold medals, zip lining above Robson Square, finally meeting my virtual sister Pam Slim at Andrea Lee’s Wealthy Thought Leader event where I was with some people who charge their mentoring clients in one year as much as the original amount of our mortgage – has me thinking: it is time to begin thinking bigger. It is time for a new dream. It is time for a new North Star, one that will guide me to unimaginable heights and force me to blur the thin line between ability and disability even further.
I don’t know what the dream is yet, but I am ready to accept it and to embrace it. Universe, I am listening.
Earlier this year I invited readers to share exactly 25 words on:
What does accessibility mean to you?
Why only 25 words? To drill down to the essence of what accessibility truly means.
Participation in this group writing project was overwhelming! The responses were insightful, revealing and personal. They came from people with disabilities, parents of children with disabilities, and those who are beginning to consider accessibility.
One thing you may not know about the Left Thumb Blogger yet is I’m terrified of open heights. Enclosed heights are no problem, but any place where there is a slightest chance, no matter how remote, of falling over the side, forget it! No way, no how!
So, what did I do Saturday?
Thanks to my childhood friend Karen and my cousin Craig, I did the zip line at Robson Square! The 550-foot zip line that goes high above Robson Square and Robson Street, with traffic whizzing by below.
(Auntie Fern and Craig with the zip line tower in the background)
But, it’s not quite as simple as that sounds! Although, thanks to Karen phoning ahead and pulling whatever strings, we had an appointment for 1:30 and, thus, bypassed the 6-8 hour line up. Once again the universe even out the score for the wheelchair!
After signing a waiver, we harnessed up. Here’s one place where perfectionism is absolutely necessary!
After giving Karen’s husband Alec quick directions on how to drive my scooter – he was assigned with the task of driving over to the end of the zip line, the three of us began ascending the 140-foot tall free-standing tower with no elevator!
(Looking up the tower of stairs)
With Karen on my left side and Craig holding me from behind, we began the 81-stair climb, taking it one stair at a time.
I was out of breath by stair 15! We stopped every couple of platforms for a brief break and to let others pass us.
Going up didn’t really bother me in terms of height because the tower was enclosed with a fabric.
Getting to the open top after our half-hour climb was another matter! One hundred and four feet is an extremely long way down! I was kinda having second thoughts; like, what the heck am I doing? and other unbloggable thoughts. But, turning back now meant going back down all 81stairs.
I sat on a folding chair to catch my breath and to let a few others go ahead. Man, my mouth was dry after that climb! That better count as my workout for an entire month!
Then it was decided that Craig – who came over from Victoria only to help but realized the plans were changing when he was handed a waiver form! – should go first to have someone on the other side to help me. He tentatively stepped down the four stairs to nothingness!
I was next. (insert several unbloggable words) While the staff was hooking me to the two lines above, I was thinking Yes, I’m terrified. This is the scariest thing I have ever done! But, I can do it. I can push through my fears and survive, hopefully!
Looking out to the 550-foot line, it seemed like it’d be the most alone place I’ve ever been. If something happened out, no one could quickly come to my rescue. This is definitely independence!
The staff helped me to sit down on the top stair and then to bump down the next ones before giving me a slight push. Karen shot this brief video before jumping herself:
Craig snapped this shot while I was nearing the end. Definitely not my most flattering side! Although I’m not sure it’s possible to have a flattering side while careening across a line 140 feet above people and traffic!
And this shot of me likely uttering another unbloggable phrase:
I know I should have had a profound thought or revelation upon reaching the other side safely. However, in that moment, I was very relieved that I hadn’t met my Maker!
Karen was next to reach the other side. We caught our breaths, unharnessed and began descending the only 40 stairs.
Thankfully Alec met us part way, and he and a staff folded their arms into the firemen’s chair to take me down the remainder of the way. I never pass up the opportunity to be carried by a good-looking guy; two, even better!
We were relieved to safely reach the bottom and to greet our respective loved ones!
We had done it! We each faced our fears and survived! Thanks to Karen and Craig, I did something I never really imagine myself doing! Accomplishing this moved the line of impossibility even further away.
We each received a gift: a climbing clip with a 10% off coupon for the zip line in Whistler or New Zealand. (Let’s allow our legs to stop feeling rubbery before we consider our next adventure!) For our efforts, a plaque of bravery or a bottle of champagne would have been more appropriate!
But, seriously, the Ziptrek staff were excellent! They had no qualms in me doing this and they allowed us to take our time on the stairs. We didn’t feel rushed or pressured at all.
Yesterday I was interviewed via email by CBC Radio about “Social Media and the Paralympics”. It was to air this morning on CBC’s Early Edition. However, my interview responses were cut from show, which raises a larger question about traditional media and representation of people with disabilities.
First, my written responses to the interviewer’s questions:
How important is the role of social media in the Paralympic experience?
The role of the social media is crucial in the Paralympic experience. I have found that many people didn’t even know the Paralympics existed because traditional media do not cover the world’s second-largest sporting event. Social media is increasing awareness and building interest in these Games. Once people know about the Paralympics, they are wanting to know more, to see more; social media is filling the gap where mainstream media is failing. Also, social media is also being used to put pressure on traditional media for more coverage of the Paralympics; for example, the Facebook page "Encourage CTV to Cover More of the Paralympics". Yesterday CTV announced it’ll air live the Closing Ceremonies across Canada. A result from the outcry via social media? Quite possible. Without social media people would experience very little of the Paralympics unless they are at the venues.
How does online help YOU experience the Games?
Social media has deepened my experience of the Games. I have tweetdeck open all day and am monitoring the hashtag #paralympics, so I get results from events immediately rather than needing to wait until the day’s highlights on CTV. I first heard of Brian McKeever’s gold in cross country skiing on Twitter. I also see photos from people’s experiences and links to blog posts and online news stories related to the Games. Paralympicsports.tv allows me to watch events that I wouldn’t see otherwise. Thanks to social media and online coverage I’m able to experience the Paralympic Games in a way I couldn’t relying solely on mainstream media coverage.
What’s the difference between social media during the Olympics vs the Paralympics?
The difference between social media during the Olympics and the Paralympics is there seems to be more focus on the athletes’ stories and the actual events, like what is ice sledge hockey and how does wheelchair curling differ from regular culling. There is definitely less coverage from the various pavilions , houses and other party-related events; no doubt because there are fewer. And, as I mentioned before, there’s an unified rallying voice for more coverage by traditional media. The social media has created a hunger, a market for the Paralympics.
Often in situations like this I would record a phone conversation and play it on air. From what I’ve read of your bio, I understand that we won’t be doing that, but I’d like to explain why. Would you mind telling be how you explain your ability to communicate, so I don’t make a mess of it?
Due my cerebral palsy, my speech is significantly impaired making verbal communication with those not well-versed in Glenda-ish futile. The written word is my most effective means of communication. Given enough preparation time I also use text-to-speech technology, although I use that mainly when giving presentations and speeches.
Despite my last response, I was not included in the story “Social Media and the Paralympics”. Yet, included were two local bloggers – Rebecca Bolwitt aka Miss604 and Andrea of 2010VanFan – and a professor from the School of Communications at Simon Fraser University (coincidentally I have a communications minor from SFU).
I can’t help but wonder if my responses were excluded because I am unable to do a phone interview, like the others did. My method of responding didn’t fit their format.
This raises a larger question: how much access or representation do people with disabilities, particularly those with significant physical disabilities, have in traditional media?
I mean, we’re talking about the world’s largest sporting event for people with disabilities and how traditional media provides minimal coverage, then traditional media cuts a well-known blogger with a disability from a story on how the social media is covering the Paralympics. WTF? What gives?
Social media is definitely more accessible to those of us with disabilities, enabling our otherwise marginalized voices to be heard for the first time in history.