Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt

Motivational Speaker

When Disabilities Collide…Whip Out the iPad

Filed under: Living with a disability — by at 5:38 pm on Friday, July 22, 2011

One day at university, many moons ago, I was heading towards the residence’s main door as a man with a white cane was coming out. He couldn’t see I was there and I couldn’t step to the side. We collided.

i ran over his foot. He was understandably surprised and bewildered by what had just crushed his foot. I felt awful.

Jokingly he said I owed him my name, at least, for running over him. A fair request I thought and I gave my first name.

Having been double-blessed with a significant speech impairment and a less-than-common name, he, of course, didn’t understand it, even after several attempts.

The alphabet card Since he hadn’t seen me in my scooter coming at him, whipping out my low-tech, no-battery-required alphabet card would have been futile.

Jack began saying the alphabet, “a b c d e f g”


“G? Okay. a b c d e f g h i j k l”


“g l?”


“a b c d e”

Five minutes later he had “Glenda”. We stayed on a first name basis. After a brief conversation of yes and no questions, he limped off on his way to class.

Since then I have given people with white canes and guide dogs a wide berth. I wasn’t avoiding them, not exactly. I was taking the easy route while minimizing inflicting personal harm.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago: while in Mississauga for work, I had the opportunity to meet Jennison Asuncion in person – a meeting I was apprehensive about because he is also visually impaired. I wanted to avoid running over another blind man.

Like so many relationships nowadays, we met somewhere online – Twitter, a web accessibility forum or elsewhere – at an unmemorable point in the past. Technology makes our disabilities compatible while interacting online.

It was the face-to-face interaction I was unsure about. However, Jennison was amazingly good at understanding Glenda-ish and, because we already had a certain degree of familiarity, of intimacy, we had a meaningful conversation.

Proloquo2Go ap on the iPadWhen he did get stuck on a word or when I wanted to give a somewhat longer response, I turned to the Proloquo2Go ap on my iPad and used the speak feature for the first time. As online, this iPad ap worked great in bridging our two disabilities.

Thanks to Jennison, I now know I am able to communicate with individuals with white canes or guide dogs. Future collisions of disabilities will be mitigated.

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

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Comment by Kathy Olsen

July 24, 2011 @ 5:59 pm

so what we are saying is that communication can be meaningful with a whole variety of ways to get the message across. Brilliant Glenda.

Comment by Kim and Duke

October 9, 2011 @ 8:26 am

I’ve been blind since birth and spent time at a school for the blind where we shared a residence building with deaf students. I shared an apartment with four profoundly deaf roommates who only used sign language to communicate. To get around the barriers that prevented us from communicating I would use my laptop (which read things out loud for me) and we would have conversations.

I could hear what they typed and they could read what I typed. This worked well and we all became friends because of the technology.

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