Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt

Motivational Speaker

Daring to Follow a Dream Leads to Deliciously Ironic Employment

Filed under: Living with a disability — by Glenda at 2:48 pm on Monday, October 31, 2016

Glenda speaking on stage, with the text "I AM a speaker, no matter what!" superimposed on photo

Back in high school, public speaking was definitely not on my list of top career choices. It ranked way down near the bottom with neurosurgery. Likewise, my top career options were also rather limited.

As you may know, I have cerebral palsy, which, for the most part, affects my balance, muscle coordination and speech. Back when I was searching for employment opportunities, entry level office positions – my only glimmer of possibility – required a minimum typing speed and the ability to answer the telephone. However, my left thumb – the only digit I can use for typing – did not meet expectations, and my unique Glenda-ish did not make the phone my best friend. I was disqualified from most positions before the conversation even got to my abilities, talents and interests.

I persevered and some time after completing my Bachelor of Arts degree from Simon Fraser University, I did land a part-time job at my alma mater, making the existing career mentor program accessible to students and alum with disabilities; a job I loved. When the project funding ended, so did my job.

After much searching, I could not find another employer willing to give me an opportunity to prove what I was capable of offering as an employee. Self-employment was my only option.

I competently completed any work opportunity that came my way: writing a literature review for a homelessness project, editing sermons for a pastor’s book, writing articles for various websites, maintaining a website for a non-profit arts organization. To me, those were survival jobs – equivalent to pumping gas and waiting tables – they put some food on the table, but not much more.

Gradually I built a solid reputation as a web accessibility consultant; making websites accessible to people with all kinds of disabilities. Web accessibility was an understandable career path for me and there is still much left to be done in the field but, after fourteen years, I felt so burnt out that if I had to explain the need for text descriptions of images one more time, I would stab my eyes out with a yellow HB pencil.

Advances in technology – namely, the iPad and the text-to-speech app Proloquo4Text – have enabled me to take my career in a bold new direction; one that was impossible, inconceivable back in high school. That of being a well-paid, internationally-known motivational speaker to inspire people who are silently screaming “There’s more to me!” and, yet, they are standing in their own way from moving forward.

In August, I traveled to Toronto for the honour and privilege of delivering the ISAAC 2016 Consumer Lecture as a plenary session at the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ISAAC) Conference. I delivered Finding Your True Dream, The North Star for Your Life’s Journey – which has since become my signature talk – to approximately 600-800 people.

Here is a brief clip:

Being up there on the stage, sharing my story and the five elements of a dream, felt so right. This is what I am meant to do, where I am meant to be, at this point in my life. It is a destiny I fully accept and embrace, and an irony I savour as absolutely delicious.

Sometimes finding employment means daring to follow a dream, no matter what!


For more information about my signature talk Finding Your True Dream, The North Star for Your Life’s Journey, please download my speaker onesheet. Feel free to share with anyone you know who is looking for speakers for conferences or events. Thanks kindly.

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

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Move Over Scissors, The Nimble is Cutting It!

Filed under: Living with a disability — by Glenda at 7:21 pm on Monday, April 18, 2016

A pair of scissors and a NimbleMore often than not, using scissors when left-handed is frustrating. The scissors tend to fold paper, rather than cut it. Add in limited hand function due to cerebral palsy and some tasks, like opening a plastic package, leaves me screwed.

Enter the Nimble – a cutting tool that slips over the fingertip.

When I was given the opportunity to try one, I said, “Yes, please!” (In the spirit of full disclosure, this is, in essence, a sponsored review, in that I did received one Nimble for free.)

Nimble on Glenda's forefinger

Right out of the envelope, I was able to use the small gadget to open the enclosed packages of the sweets.

Since then I have been using the “1 finger cutting tool” to open packets in the kitchen every day. And I am constantly finding new uses for it.

The actual cutting bit is like the very tip of a cat claw. Because it is so small, there is no (or, a minuscule) chance of cutting myself. Yet, it will cut what I need cutting: paper, plastic, cellophane, foil, tape, and such.

I am looking forward to packing the Nimble in my bag when I head off to Toronto this summer. Scissors aren’t permitted through airport security, but this small cutting tool will likely get through without a second glance. Opening the hotel’s tiny soap bars will no longer be a hassle!

The creator Simon Lyons and his company VERSION 22 are running a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to get the Nimble into production. If you feel so inclined, please check out the Nimble’s Kickstarter campaign.

I am eager to having Nmbles in several places throughout my home so that one is always handy when I need it!

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

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Optometrist Scores Average on Eye Exam, Patient Enlightens Once Again

Filed under: Living with a disability — by Glenda at 5:53 pm on Monday, January 18, 2016

Reading glasses set beside Don Miguel Ruiz's The Four AgreementsWith headaches so painful I felt like I would puke, an optometrist appointment was reluctantly made.

Reluctantly because my last appointment three years ago left me feeling devalued and depleted, and took all of my inner strength not to burst into tears.

This feeling had nothing to do with the condition of my eyes, but, rather, the ill-prepared, unenlightened way the optometrist communicated with me and my jerky, constantly moving, speech impaired body.

After that disastrous appointment, I wrote an letter to the optometrist and hand delivered it to the office. Even though I requested that the letter be placed in my file for next time, in preparation for this latest appointment I printed a copy to give to the next optometrist.

I was somewhat hesitant to hand the letter to the new-to-me optometrist because I didn’t want to assume he was as unenlightened as the previous doctor. I then realized the exam would have more of a chance of going smoothly if I gave him a fair chance to succeed. I handed him the letter.


Autobiography: amzn.to/U6N5uW
Blog: www.doitmyselfblog.com
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/glendawatsonhyatt
Twitter: @GlendaWH

October 19, 2012

Dear Optometrist:

After my eye exam on Monday, October 15th, I left the office feeling devalued and depleted. I am hoping by sharing the following information, the next exam will go smoother for both of us.

As you might know, I have athetoid cerebral palsy. For me, this means I lack muscle control and coordination. My physical movements are jerky and involuntary; one body part or another is in constant motion. My speech is also significantly impaired, yet can be understood by individuals who take the time to listen.

However, my hearing, understanding and cognition are not affected. There is no need to speak loudly, to repeat yourself or to use simple vocabulary for me to comprehend.

Next time I will grab my iPad from my scooter basket before my scooter is moved out of the way so that I have a more effective means of communication at hand.

My head control is tenuous at times. When conducting the eye pressure test and other such tests during which my head must remain still in a certain position, it might be helpful to have someone hold my head steady.

My eyes closing when something is approaching is a strong, uncontrollable reflex. Repeatedly stating that I need to open my eyes for the eye drops is not productive. Perhaps another method can be found to achieve the same result.

Please keep this letter in my file so that it will be handy for my next appointment.

Perhaps in that time you could consult with colleagues and other optometrists for further suggestions on how to best serve patients with cerebral palsy and other neurological disorders.

Working together will ensure successful care for my vision.

Respectfully,
Glenda Watson Hyatt


The optometrist read the letter, thanked me for the information and proceeded with examining my eyes. He was extremely patient when my head twitched like a bobblehead that had just  downed a few cups of espresso.

However, perhaps “…my hearing, understanding and cognition are not affected” was not written clearly enough in the letter as he made a great effort to gesture while he was talking. He went as far as to write “2012” on a small Post-It note when he asked if my last glasses were in 2012.

In Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements, the third agreement is: "Don’t make assumptions."

Don’t assume that I do not hear or do not understand because my speech is unclear or because I may communicate in another manner.

Making that assumption really does say more about you than it says about me. And, honestly, it does not portray you in your best light.

Asking me, ”Can you hear and understand me okay? Is there anything else I need to do when communicating with you?” would portray you in a much more enlightened light.

On the bright side, this optometrist would make a fantastic partner while playing Charades.


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No One Speaks for Me!: Accessibility Must Include Communication Access

Filed under: Living with a disability — by Glenda at 5:07 pm on Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Even doctors have dismissed my ability to communicate. One specialist went as far as to tell me that he would ask me questions, but he expected my husband Darrell to respond because “it would be faster.” I was shocked! No one speaks for me on something as important as my health simply because it is more convenient for them.

I shared this story during last week’s CBC Radio interview, in which Communication Disabilities Access Canada’s Executive Director Barbara Collier and I, in my role as CDAC’s Social Media Coordinator, briefly discussed communication access for individuals with speech and language disabilities.

Here’s the interview audio as a YouTube video – a clever way to have the audio transcribed, even if it it isn’t quite perfect.

For more CBC coverage: Speech and language disabilities ‘need more support’ in British Columbia

Many resources for individuals with speech and language disabilities and on how to best serve us are available from CDAC’s project Communication Access Now.

Donning my Social Media Coordinator hat for a moment, I invite you to Like CDAC on Facebook and to follow @CommAccessNow on Twitter. That is where I am spending a fair bit of time these days.

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

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An iPad and Proloquo4Text for Delivering Acoustic Presentations: The Review

Filed under: Living with a disability — by Glenda at 4:42 pm on Friday, June 13, 2014

Glenda delivering a presentation using the Proloquo4Text app on her iPad In May, I had the opportunity to deliver two presentations. In both instances, I used the text-to-speech Proloquo4Text app on my iPad.

And, wow! That was much easier, much less cumbersome than using the old way in PowerPoint.

The first presentation,  titled “From Speech Impairment to Motivational Speaker: How I Got From There to Here”, was based on much I have written here on my blog. Creating this presentation looked like:

  • Writing: 5.25 hours (not including the time my friend Karen spent editing)
  • Creating the  PowerPoint with only photos: 2 hours
  • Importing into Proloquo4Text: .5 hour
  • Tweaking and practicing: 2.75 hours

The total time for creating this “acoustic” presentation was a mere 9.5 hours for a 25-30 minute presentation. The old way took 50+ hours to create a presentation of roughly the same length. By the time I was ready to go with my iPad, I was in tears; tears of joy!

I felt (and still feel) a huge weight has been lifted off of me. I no longer need to spend an inordinate amount of time on the mind-numbing process of creating my presentations in PowerPoint. Rather I can now focus on what I love doing: writing and developing my message, my story, that I wish to share with my audiences.

For the first presentation, I created a basic PowerPoint with photos, like many speakers do. As a reminder to myself when to advance the slides, I changed the background colour (to green) of the applicable text blocks (on the left). This visual cue worked great.

Screen shot of Proloquo4Text on the iPad

The one challenge that I found was when I attempted a "tap and hold" to speak a text block, the text was not reliably spoken. In those moments, I would then do a “tap” to have the text appear in the text pad (the blue area of the right), tap “play” and then “delete” once it was done speaking that chunk of text. I don’t know whether that bug was because my hold wasn’t long enough or wasn’t steady enough, or whether it was the user, the iPad, the app or a combination thereof. But it is not a big enough challenge to dissuade me and I am confident there will be a fix or workaround in the near future.

My second presentation was totally “acoustic”. Just me and my iPad. No PowerPoint. No wifi. No curtain to hide behind.

Even though I was nervous, which is normal for nearly every professional speaker, this is all feeling so right. Speaking is what I am meant to do at this point in my life.

Now that I know the technology works in this kind of situation and I have more flexibility and choice than I did with the way I used PowerPoint, I am more ready than ever to put myself out there as a motivational speaker; to call myself a professional speaker.

If you have an audience looking for a unique motivational message, I am now scheduling for summer and early fall.

From significant speech impairment to motivational speaker…what a ride this is!


For more of information about my speaking, please visit my speaker site.

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

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