Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt

Motivational Speaker

What Do I Do When My Blog Flips Me the Bird?

Filed under: Blogging — by Glenda at 11:59 pm on Saturday, August 28, 2010

Religiously every Saturday (unless I’m out of town or have a more pressing obligation), I record my blog stats – a combination of stats from SiteMeter, Technorati, Alexa, Google Analytics, Post Rank and Aweber. I probably don’t then analyze them like I could, but I find recording them in Excel and comparing them to previous week’s unexplainably comforting.

Imagine my surprise today when they flipped me the bird!

A bar graph showing seven months of consistent blog traffic with spike in the middle month

What? After all of the love, time and effort I give you, you have the audacity to flip me the bird? What gives? What are you actually telling me?

I did some digging because, as a curious blogger always on the look out for good post ideas, that’s what’s I do, constantly. I found:

  • In February I published 11 posts
  • March: 9 posts
  • April: 8 posts
  • May: 5 posts
  • June: 5posts
  • July: 6 posts
  • August: 6 posts (so far)

Except for February and March, the time of the Olympics and the Paralympics when I allowed myself time to play and to blog about it, my monthly post numbers have been fairly consistent. Low, but consistent, hence I passed the first rule of blogging.

Looking deeper, the traffic spike in May was due to my post The iPad as an Affordable Communicator: Initial Review, which was written from the heart and was timely as May was when the iPad was released in other countries. To date, that post has resulted in 159 tweets, 11 trackbacks, and 32 comments – my most popular post ever! And, that bodes well for another project I have in the works.

However, unfortunately, that dramatic traffic spike did not have any long term benefits; at least, not yet. The number of email subscribers did not increase. The post didn’t even include an Amazon link for those moved to purchase an iPad in the moment – something for which I’ve kicked myself.

After May’s spike, the traffic dropped down to exactly it was pre-iPad post. Granted, some of that drop is likely due to readers out enjoying summer. Why read blogs when its gorgeous outside!

Digging even deeper, I revisited my goal to comment on 10 blogs per week and realized I failed terribly with 41 comments in that same 7-month period.

Yes, I have been crazily busy, I’ve been out of town twice, and other such reasons/excuses. But most every other blogger has a similar story. If I want more traffic, more comments, more of an engaged blog community, then I need to visit more blogs, contribute more comments and be more engaged in the blogosphere. That’s good blogging karma. Simply retweeting a link isn’t enough of a contribution, in my opinion.

(Why I would want more traffic, an engaged community is a good question and perhaps the topic of another post.)

Last night on Twitter, I discovered the free iPad app Flipboad – “a personalized, social magazine”. I’m curious to check out this, to see if it’ll be easier for getting all of the links and blogs, which I’d like to read, in one place. Then, commenting and contributing might become easier.

A fictional bar graph with two spikes resembling the 'Rock on' hand signHopefully, then, my blog will tell me, You rock!

What is your blog telling you?

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Empowering Surge: Ask Your Questions about Women with Disabilities and Menopause

Filed under: Living with a disability — by Glenda at 1:51 pm on Monday, August 23, 2010

One perk by being a blogger is that I am receiving more and more press releases, announcements and offers of review copies in my inbox. Most get deleted; the occasional one I accept.

One press release that recently landed in my inbox caught my eye. The headline read:

Did you know that September is National Menopause Awareness Month?

Followed by the staggering statistics:

Over 6,000 women enter menopause every day in the US alone and by 2015, the number of menopausal women is expected to reach 1.7 billion!

Next came an invitation to interview two of the principles of the new documentary Hot Flash Havoc (warning: music auto-starts!): Executive Producer Heidi Houston and Alan Altman, M.D., a Gynecologist specializing in menopause and midlife sexuality.

I began thinking, “Of those 1.7 billion menopausal women, a sizable number will have various disabilities of varying degrees. After having one doctor dismiss my question about hormones, here’s an opportunity to ask some tough  questions about women with disabilities, hormones and menopause!”

Rather than hitting the delete button, I replied and asked “whether the principles would be open to interview via email, discussing menopause and women with disabilities.” The response was resounding yes! Awesome!

So, I’d like to ask my readers, “What questions related to disabilities, hormones and menopause would you – women with disabilities or chronic illnesses, loved ones of women with disabilities, and enlightened men – like me to ask the Executive Producer and the Gynecologist?”

Please leave your questions in the comment section below by Friday, September 3rd, 2010. Ask those burning questions, sisters!

The interview will be posted here mid-September.

If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a chai tea latte. Thanks kindly.

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Living with Cerebral Palsy in the Web 2.0 Era

Filed under: Living with a disability, Social Media — by Glenda at 5:16 pm on Thursday, August 19, 2010

The speakers' table at the Plain Talk Conference Three weeks ago today I had the pleasure of presenting with web accessibility consultant and speaker Tom Babinszki on the panel “Living with a Disability in the Web 2.0 Era” at the Plain Talk Conference held in Alexandria, Virginia.

Here’s my PowerPoint presentation in video with the transcript below:

Before I begin I would like to thank you all for coming to a conference on communicating plainly and clearly. I find it interesting that I, who have found a compelling way to deliver presentation despite my significant speech impairment, have been asked to present at such a conference. This only proves that the communication method is secondary to the message.

I’d also like to mention that when some people are nervous their faces turn beet red, when I’m nervous my head bobs for apples. The fact that you cannot see the apples makes me question which one of us has the disability.

Living with a disability in this era of Web 2.0 technology is exciting, filled with opportunity. Technology is finally catching up to what I truly need. However, it has been a long road with several bumps and lessons learned along the way.

My typing career began at the tender age of five on a Smith Corona electric typewriter outfitted with a key guard to increase my likelihood of hitting only one key at a time. I glided my hand, in an ergonomically compromised position, along the top of the typewriter and typed with my left thumb.

Occupational therapists and other adults tried desperately to get me to type in other ways, but nothing worked as well or felt as natural as typing with my left thumb, which shows I’m the only expert in knowing how my body works best. I still own a Smith Corona to write cheques, fill out forms and make quick notes.

In Grade 9, my guidance counsellor suggested I learn to use computers as they would likely benefit to me later. That was the wisest advice I received from any counsellor, ever. That year I started on an Apple IIe and learned AppleSoft Basic from a Grade 12 student during one of my study periods. In later grades a computer in the Learning Centre was made available to me for doing assignments, which eliminated the necessity to retype “good” copies of papers — a significant timesaver for me.

On New Year’s Day, 1988, I headed off to university with a Commodore 64 generously donated by two local Lions Clubs. This computer, and a subsequent, updated 286 were terrific tools that enabled me to complete my university papers and exams and begin to connect with the outside world in a technologically new, yet very ordinary way: via email and bulletin board systems.

But my computing life didn’t begin in earnest until I met Darrell my geek husband -his words, not mine! Together we worked out, and continue to discover, computer access methods that work best for me.

As an example, we replaced the mouse with a sturdy joystick. This affords me better control of the pointer, despite my jerky hand movements.

We then added the software program E Z Keys. To save time and effort while typing I currently use the features:

  • word prediction and completion, where numbered words are suggested dynamically as I type;
  • abbreviation expansion, where I type a couple of letters that automatically expand to phrases or complete sentences;
  • and automatic spaces, which are set to occur after punctuation.

When typing with only one thumb at ten words per minute, I need to be as efficient as possible. Even with this technology, writing my autobiography, I’ll Do It Myself, took me four years.

Keyboards without extra function keys or buttons across the top – that’s where I glide my hand – are becoming more difficult to find. And, invariably, one or two keys get gummed up, making the entire keyboard useless. (I require a lot of good dark chocolate when software is thwarting my best efforts!) I recently switched to a basic flexible, washable silicon keyboard without any extra buttons. The best thing about this fantastic assistive technology is that it isn’t AT, which means it isn’t outrageously priced. It cost 15 bucks at Staples!

Another cool piece of software I use frequently is TextAloud. Using this text-to-speech software with the synthesized voice of “Kate”, I am now able to give interviews, narrate videos as I please and make presentations such as this one. I dream of one day having a voice created using digital sampling of my and my family members’ voices and inflections to make my voice less Kate and more Glenda.

My foray into Web 2.0 began five years ago when I discovered blogging. I am not exaggerating, it changed my life forever. For the first time, I spoke with a clear, concise voice and could communicate with the world completely unhindered by my disability. Suddenly people were getting to know me – my thoughts, my opinions, my experiences – without being presented with my disability first. That isn’t to say I hide my disability, I am very open about my cerebral palsy on my blog. But my blog readers and friends get to know me before and beyond my cp. They call me the Left Thumb Blogger.

To highlight the change, I’d like to share a story: several years ago I attended a disability management conference. I was sitting in a room of 400 human resource managers, there to learn about employing people with disabilities, and I happened to be looking for a job. You’d think it would have been a room filled with opportunities, yet I have never felt so alone. No one spoke to me; no one interacted with me. My disability – or, moreover, my perceived disability – was the barrier.

Contrast that experience with this: I attend blogging and social media conferences – like BlogWorld in Las Vegas every October – and that uncomfortable, awkwardness about how to react to my jerky movements and my difficult-to-understand speech does not exist. Because I already have made online connections, relationships based on equal intellect and mutual respect, people already know there’s much more to me than my cp. Online introductions help bypass that awkward stage.

I work as a web accessibility consultant with three levels of government, transit authorities and non-profit organizations to improve accessibility of their websites for people with disabilities. I am sought after to assess website accessibility and suggest improvements. I write about accessibility issues on my blog, give presentations and teach an online course to bloggers, enabling them to create more accessible content and, thus, increase their readership.

I also use Twitter and Facebook to connect with colleagues, friends and family. I prefer Twitter because tweets are limited to 140 characters — my left thumb keeps up quite nicely. It has become my water cooler. I work from home, but I no longer feel I’m working in a vacuum. There’s always someone around who asks or answers a question, offers or needs an encouraging word or shares a laugh with me regardless of whether I’m working through the day or night.

Like most discerning web users, I tend to avoid or spend less time on sites that are overwhelming. Instead I prefer those with clean, crisp design. For example, I prefer MyAlltop to Google Reader to follow the various blogs I read. Google Reader was hard to maintain with more articles added daily. MyAlltop – a simpler, cleaner reader that maintains the list at 5 articles per blog followed, adding new articles and dropping previous ones without action on my part to keep it manageable.

Other things I personally avoid or struggle with online include:

  • Search features like the one found on the official website for Americans with Disabilities Act, which involved a whopping four pages to complete a search. I might as well use Google — even if I have to scroll to find the appropriate link, it’s much less arduous than the endless clicking.
  • Tiny clickable areas can be difficult for me to click on.
  • Fly out menus are tricky to click on before vanishing and I typically click on a link I didn’t intend to go.
  • Auto-start audio or video cause me to jump out of my skin.

A new challenge has popped up in recent months that sends my frustration through the roof: My assistive technology is not keeping up with new web technology. An example: I have started using Google Wave – an online collaboration tool – to collaborate, brainstorm and stay connected with a networking group. The conflict between Google Wave and my E Z Keys word prediction is causing two or three words to be typed when I enter an appropriate number, forcing me to backspace to delete unwanted words.

To avoid this, I can also type my message in Notepad and then paste it into Wave, but really, both options are more time consuming and less efficient than properly functioning software, and particularly frustrating during the collaborative process.

I recently purchased my latest acquisition in Chicago – an iPad. This is more than the latest, hottest toy to me. In the short time I’ve had it, my life has changed yet again. I bought it to try the communication app Proloquo2Go, and used it as my communication device of choice that first day I had it, both at the social media conference, and afterward, hanging out with friends at the bar! My iPad takes conversation to a deeper level than was ever imaginable when using standard, low-tech alphabet cards to get a point across.

The iPad, pricey to the average person, is available at a fraction of the cost of a single-purpose augmentative communication device. An easy method of communication is so important to my inclusion in society. It also allows me to tweet, check email, write blog posts and read while I am out and about, away from my computer. My iPad is a Blackberry or iPhone in a size I can easily use.

I was asked to look toward the future, and tell you of a technology I might wish for. A dream I have had since I was ten is a computer that reads my thoughts, with every word appearing onscreen. There has been some advancement in the brain research and relevant technology, hopefully it is realized well before my left thumb needs to retire due to debilitating arthritis. One can dream…

If I may offer one final suggestion: learn about your clients, your colleagues, your patients with disabilities, go read their blogs. Spend time getting to know the people you serve and work with beyond their disabilities and it will likely change you. The opportunity is there, like never before. Use it.

To offer you a starting point, today I have published a post on my blog that lists several of my favourite blog posts and some of the bloggers with disabilities or with loved ones with disabilities whom I follow. I invite you to stop by, to read and to experience.

Thank you.

If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a chai tea latte. Thanks kindly.

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Writing Under the Stars: A Follow-Up iPad Review

Filed under: Living with a disability — by Glenda at 11:00 pm on Tuesday, August 17, 2010

After another scorching day here in Surrey, I am enjoying the coolness of the evening on my deck…with my iPad.

Oftentimes I’ve been tempted to bring my laptop out here to write; to see if being outside changed my writing in any way. But the mere thought of unzipping tbs case, pulling out the laptop and flexible keyboard, plugging in the power cord because the battery was likely dead from non-use and waiting for Windows to load squashed any temptation! The Muse was silenced.

Using my iPad out here is way easier: turn it on, tap the WordPress app and I’m ready to go. My iPad is more of a laptop than my laptop ever was.

The one thing that would be helpful is if the finger-spreading motion increased the font size in this app. Perhaps I need to explore the settings more. Another time…the Mosquitos have discovered my sweet blood.

Good night. Sweet dreams and blessings for tomorrow.

If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a chai tea latte. Thanks kindly.

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Highlights from my DC Solo Tour

Filed under: Traveling with a Disability — by Glenda at 3:04 pm on Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Wednesday, July 28th: Following a good night’s sleep after traveling from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Alexandria, Virginia, via Dallas, Texas (a route which still doesn’t make sense to me) and armed with my printed Google map, I headed out to explore Washington, DC.

Brick buildingsFinding my way from the Westin Alexandria to the MetroTrain station, I felt an affinity with the building with the initials “GW”. I felt greatness occurred within those red brick walls!

View from the King Street station platformTaking the MetroTrain into DC was very easy; like taking our SkyTrain. Everything I encountered along the train trip was adequately accessible. And it was only six stops – a short half hour – to the starting point of my solo DC tour.

Waiting on the train platform, I was take by all of the red brick. The view awestruck this one from the west coast!

Not until I was on the train and it stopped at the Pentagon Station did I realize I was so close to the Pentagon. Had that realization struck sooner, I may have planned to include a quick stop there too.

Canadian Embassy entrance with a poster with Olympic colours in the windowWalking along Constitution Avenue, I was drawn to a poster with familiar colours – the colours of Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver. It was comforting seeing a piece of home while being so far away. I later realized it was the Canadian Embassy.

The Capitol BuildingComing to Capitol Hill, I was a little surprised to find only stairs flanking both side of the Spring Grotto Park. A security  person said I could cut along the grass, which I did and shot this photo of the Capitol Building. I then found my way around the entire building, taking more photos.

The bronze plaque for the United States Botanic Garden ConservatoryNeeding a break from the heat, I popped into the United States Botanic Garden Conservatory for a quick wheel through.

With so many museums and attractions in DC, I wondered if the First Family is able to get out to experience it without a major process being required.

Smithsonian Institution - Arts & Industries BuildingFinding a shady spot near the carousel across from the Smithsonian Institution – Arts & Industries Building, I drank a bottle of pop, which a stranger kindly open for me. (Cans are so much easier for me for two reasons: to open and my straws are long enough. Minor details but the difference between quenching a thirst or not on a hot day!)

Intrigued by the red brick castle-looking building, I went in. The air-conditioning was a welcomed yet brief refuge from the afternoon’s scorching heat. (Does anyone know if the building was once a church?)

The Washington MonumentContinuing along, the next point of interest was the iconic Washington Monument. After seeing it countless times on television and in movies, seeing it close-up was amazing. I hadn’t realize one could take a tour inside.

(The sun was so bright that my camera’s LCD screen was now black. I couldn’t see what I was taking photos of, and, hence, this photo isn’t straight. Is there a remedy for the black screen on bright days?)

The White House and fountainMy final yet most awaited point of interest was the White House, of course! I was confused by my Google Map because it showed what I thought was the White House as the National Security Council and the White House was behind trees, out of sight. I later learned that the building was, indeed, the White House! And, not to believe everything on Google Maps!

Peering through the fence, I couldn’t help wonder who was being watched more: the people on the inside or those of us on the outside. Security was everywhere!

I then rushed back to the American History Museum for 4pm to meet the wheelchair taxi that the conference organizer kindly arranged for me.

This map shows the route I took in 4 hours – I saw lots in DC in very short time:

My DC tour route

Many more photos on my Flickr photostream!

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