Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt

Motivational Speaker

Special Ed Class Provides Early Training for the Left Thumb Blogger

Filed under: I'll Do It Myself: The Book,Living with a disability — by at 12:14 am on Saturday, September 12, 2009

From Special Ed Classroom to University GraduateGrowing up with cerebral palsy, my school years began in a special education class annex several blocks the main school. Now that is segregation!

But, at age five, I didn’t know the difference. I was excited to be starting Grade 1 with my friend Marika from Kindergarten and soon became friends with my four or five other classmates.

Our teacher Mrs. Rutherford was somewhat apprehensive having me in her classroom. As I share in my autobiography I’ll Do It Myself:

Being non-verbal, my teacher Mrs. Rutherford was concerned that she wouldn’t hear me when I needed help, so she gave me two small brass bells – her mom’s dinner bells – to ring to get her attention. It was soon discovered that the bells weren’t necessary as I was verbal enough to catch her attention when needed.

The bells were soon buried in my desk drawer and Mrs. Rutherford was well on her way to mastering Glenda-ish. The learning for both the student and the teacher continued…

Because getting to the chalkboard was difficult for most of us once we were placed in our seats, we each had an 18-inch square piece of chalkboard at our desks for practicing our printing. It was also easier to work on a horizontal surface rather than a vertical one. Initially, my printing was wobbly scribbles. With practice and extreme concentration, I controlled my jerky movements enough to make my letters almost legible more of the time. I also kept a chalk eraser handy, though inadvertently an uncontrollable movement erased a good letter. In frustration, I did the letter again.

Although learning to print, and then to write, were important steps in learning to read, it was evident that printing would not be efficient. It took too much energy and was too time-consuming to keep up with my work, and that would only worsen through the grades. Learning to use a typewriter was a necessity.

An electric Smith Corona typewriter was placed at the back of the room, which a few of us shared. When it was time to do typewriter work, Mrs. Rutherford dragged me in my desk chair over to the typewriter table and then dragged me back to my desk when I was done. Then it was the next student’s turn. A while later, perhaps once funding became available, we each had a typewriter at a second desk beside us. We simply dragged the typewriter back and forth as we needed it. It was much easier, especially on Mrs. Rutherford’s back.

As I have only one somewhat functioning hand, I only typed with one hand, my left hand. While typing, I steadied my hand on the typewriter hood to give myself some control over the spastic movements and used my thumb to hit the keys, causing my wrist to be in a dropped-wrist position. This concerned the adults, particularly the physio and occupational therapist. Although this was decades before repetitive strain injury and carpal tunnel syndrome had been invented, they were concerned that the dropped-wrist position would cause damage over the long-term.

They decided a splint with a stick to hit the keys was needed to keep my wrist in a good position. With this contraption snuggly Velcro strapped to my arm, I was expected to have enough arm control to steady my hand mid-air, without resting it on anything, and to accurately hit the keys. And this was less frustrating than printing with a pencil? After a few days, the splint ended up in the back of my desk drawer, and I resumed typing with my left thumb, my hand in its compromising position. I type the same way today, as nothing else feels as natural. For a non-verbal individual who relies on written communication, my left thumb is my most valued body part.

Smith Corona 2200 electric typewriter with keyguardA Smith Corona electric typewriter with a keyguard still occupies desk space. This how I fill out cheques, forms and other such tasks that cannot be completed on the computer.

The typewriter in this photo is my second. The motor on my first, an even earlier Smith Corona model, eventually blew up!

Who knew the learning to type at the age of five would eventually lead me to becoming known as the Left Thumb Blogger!

Previous miniseries post: Catching the Back to School Fever: Launching a Mini Series on My Years from Special Ed Class to University

Next miniseries post: Excuse Me If I Lay on the Floor When We Meet

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Catching the Back to School Fever: Launching a Mini Series on My Years from Special Ed Class to University

Filed under: I'll Do It Myself: The Book,Living with a disability — by at 11:28 am on Thursday, September 10, 2009

A young Glenda wearing long-legged braces and standing with her walker

With Back to School Fever in the air, I have this small urge to go back to school, if for no other reason than to buy the fun school supplies they have nowadays.

But, seriously, I was one of those strange kids who loved school!

In my autobiography I’ll Do It Myself, I share my first day of school:

I began Grade 1 in my purple heather sweater and purple plaid kilt, treasures from our summer holiday in Edinburgh. I was one bonnie lass!

School was an older building; actually, it consisted of two buildings and a portable. The main building had four or five classrooms for the primary grades, the staff room, changing room and the principal’s office. The older kids were upstairs in the other building, accessible by a long, steep ramp.

As this was before integration and mainstreaming had been invented, all the Special Ed students went to this school, which was actually an annex of a larger school, several blocks away. This was definitely segregation. But, at that age, I didn’t know any differently. I was excited to be starting school with my new notebooks, crayons and lefty scissors. And, I do remember hating missing school when I was sick. It was so boring to stay home.

At this point in this post, I was going to share some of the adaptations that were made for me in the classroom. But, rather than write one lengthy post, I have decided to try something new. After all, isn’t that what going back to school is all about?

From Special Ed Classroom to University GraduateThis post launches a mini series on my school years: the classroom accommodations made during my elementary and high school years through to seven years at university, the successes and struggles I faced, and how school may have been easier had I had the technology that exists today.

By sharing my experiences and lessons learned, I hope to offer ideas and encouragement to parents with children with disabilities who are still navigating the school system, as well as support for older students with disabilities and for teachers who work with them.

This mini series is still very much under development. Your suggestions, ideas and questions are most welcomed and will help to shape this series.

I invite you to come back to follow this series over the next couple of weeks or to sign up using the form in the upper right corner to receive this series and my other blog posts right in your email inbox.

School is in. Let’s see what we learn by sharing and asking questions.

Next miniseries post: Special Ed Class Provides Early Training for the Left Thumb Blogger

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New Venture Embraces an Internet Accessible to All

Filed under: Advocacy,I'll Do It Myself: The Book,Living with a disability — by at 9:30 am on Sunday, September 21, 2008

Screen shot of In today’s guest post, Damien Patton shares a speech he recently gave at a college explaining why his company has chosen to embrace and push accessibility standards on the web:

Hello Everyone,

I’m Damien Patton, founder and CEO of, the Web’s Flooring Authority. I am often asked why I created an information portal for the floor covering industry. My answer usually surprises everyone as it is not what people expect.

Last year, in the summer of 2007 I was lying in bed searching the internet for ideas for my next venture. For whatever reason I came upon Those of you not familiar with WebMD, it is a FREE medical resource for consumers and physicians alike. Coming from both a high tech and floor covering industry background, it immediately dawned on me, Where is the WebMD of Flooring. I spent the next couple of months searching the internet with a team of professionals to discover what type of floor covering information was on the internet and how it was presented to consumers as well as floor industry professionals. It soon became clear that there was a large void of unbiased, free information, on the internet for flooring consumers and professionals in one central place. In order to find a lot of information, you have to go through dozens of sites and most of the time the sites contradict one another.

The idea for was born.

Although the above was the catalyst for the idea, it is certainly not what propelled us to who we are today, and this is where we surprise a lot of people. While researching this site I met a woman at a high tech trade show who was disabled through complications during birth, resulting in mobility and speech disabilities. She just so happened to be selling a book that she had written called “I’ll Do It Myself.” Not only did I buy the book, I went down stairs in the convention center and read it in one sitting. I may have missed a few of the trade show classes, but the book gave me one of the most valuable educations I ever received. I, like many people, had no idea the limitations the internet has with regard to people with disabilities. Those of us that are not disabled may take for granted that we are able to search most sites without issue, and at our own pace. Can you imagine if buildings no longer had handicapped facilities such as restrooms, ramps, elevators, & hand rails? I couldn’t either. But this is exactly what most of the internet is like for those with certain types of disabilities.

Imagine a world where you can’t read what’s on the web, you can’t hear the sounds from video files, you can’t navigate through menu’s to other parts of the site; you have just experienced what the majority of websites operate like to those with visual, hearing and mobility disabilities.

The US Government has a standard for their websites that they must be accessible to everyone. This standard is called 508. Although this standard doesn’t apply to non-government related commercial websites on the internet today, I feel strongly that more has to be done to make the internet accessible to all. This is why is committed to becoming 508 compliant by the end of 2008. It is our goal that others in the online flooring community will take note of the 60 million people in America alone that have some type of disability that may affect the way they use the internet.

From the floor covering industry we are planning to launch a large green living website that incorporates all types of eco friendly building materials as well as items used in everyday life. Our mission will be to create to the largest green site for consumers that will be accessible to all, again hoping that others in that industry will follow suit. It would be great if the concept of creating accessible websites became viral. In the next 5 five years, let’s hope we are looking at a whole new internet, one that is created for everyone and is accessible to everyone.

Glenda’s note: I love when people get the need for web accessibility! If things go according to plan, I will be meeting Damien and some of his team at BlogWorld today. And I’m looking forward to working with him to ensure and other projects are Section 508 compliant. (See, the trip to Vegas was a business trip!)

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The Making of a Book Trailer

Filed under: I'll Do It Myself: The Book — by at 12:12 am on Monday, July 28, 2008

Nineteen months after releasing my autobiography I’ll Do It Myself, I am excited to announce the release of the book trailer!

Yes, I realize the order is somewhat backwards. But, I did not know book trailers even existed until after launching my book. And then there was the process of learning what exactly a book trailer is – similar to movie trailer to create hype for a new movie – and then figuring how to create one.

In the end and with some tips from my wonderfully supportive husband Darrell, I used Camtasia Studios, largely because of its relatively easy of adding captioning – a must for any video! Using my text-to-speech program TextAloud and the voice of Kate, I created the voiceover. The text was then used for the captions. And, I added I brief clip from John Denver’s Sweet Surrender.

I find it amazing that the technology exists to enable me to create such a project, even though it isn’t quite Hollywood style.

So…without further ado…

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Celebrating Life’s Moments

Filed under: I'll Do It Myself: The Book,Motivation — by at 11:28 pm on Sunday, June 22, 2008

With Canada Day and the Fourth of July around the corner, and my tenth wedding anniversary a mere six weeks away (yikes, where do the years go!), celebrations are on my mind. Not all celebrations can be marked with fireworks, marching bands and diamonds. Some occasions require conscious effort to not let slip by without duly savoring.

An opened box of my book I'll Do It Myself

One such occasion was the arrival of the boxes of my book I’ll Do It Myself. After thirty years of dreaming, thinking, and preparing to write a book, and after four years of writing, revising, editing and much procrastinating, the day the boxes arrived and I held my book in my hands for the first time was what I can only imagine is similar to giving birth. The sight brought tears to my eyes. In that moment, my dream became reality. I had accomplished it! I had written and self-published my autobiography — and I had 500 copies to prove it.

Because I chose to self-publish and, hence, didn’t have a large publishing house to fund an official launch, and because it was December and lugging precious books in the rain wasn’t appealing, I did not know if an official book launch was in the near future. Yet, I felt the moment deserved to be savored, to be recognized, to be celebrated.

An impromptu Book Arrival Celebration was planned for a Sunday evening, in our home. I intentionally did not call it a “book launch” as that would have precluded me from having a launch at a later time, at another location. After all that work with my left thumb, I was all for celebrating as many times as I could get away with! (That reminds me, the official book launch is still waiting to happen…)

After an evening of sharing good food – thanks my friend’s sister who catered a large company Christmas party the night before and saved the leftovers for us – and good wine with good friends, I felt totally contented, reflecting upon the fact that I was now a published author. Although, that did take some time to fully sink in!

However, it doesn’t take writing a book to have a reason to celebrate.

Celebrate the happiness that friends are always giving, make every day a holiday and celebrate just living!
~ Amanda Bradley

What do you celebrate? Do you need a reason or an excuse to have celebration?

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