Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt

Motivational Speaker

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 cafe mocha. 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 cafe mocha. Thanks kindly.

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“We’re Ain’t Gonna Take It Any More”: Communication Access Now, No More Social Injustice

Filed under: Living with a disability — by Glenda at 6:35 pm on Wednesday, March 12, 2014

We’re not gonna take it
No, we ain’t gonna take it
We’re not gonna take it anymore

We’ve got the right to choose and
There ain’t no way we’ll lose it
This is our life, this is our song

~ Lyrics from Twisted Sisters’ “We’re Not Gonna Take It”

Individuals with communication disabilities, which affect how we speak or understand what others are saying, typically experience inequality in employment, healthcare and numerous other situations on a daily basis. We are often treated as if we are hearing or cognitively impaired, which is not necessarily the case, and we are regularly discounted,  devalued or, even, dismissed.

Access to effective communication is a social justice issue, where social justice is defined as "… promoting a just society by challenging injustice and valuing diversity." Social justice exists when "all people share a common humanity and therefore have a right to equitable treatment, support for their human rights, and a fair allocation of community resources." In conditions of social justice, people are not “discriminated against, nor their welfare and well-being constrained or prejudiced on the basis of gender, sexuality, religion, political affiliations, age, race, belief, disability, location, social class, socioeconomic circumstances, or other characteristic of background or group membership" (Quoted from What is Social Justice?)

Glenda using her iPadAs an individual with a significant speech impairment, I have experienced inequitable treatment in countless ways. The most impactful have been in the areas of employment and healthcare.

It still irks a back corner of my mind that I am unemployed and surviving on social assistance because I couldn’t find an employer willing to look beyond my jerky movements and difficult-to-understand speech to give my abilities and skills a chance. Actually, it sucks the chocolate chip right out of my cookie that after five years at high school and seven years at university, working hard to keep up (and sometimes surpass) my classmates and friends, only to watch them land jobs with decent salaries, Christmas bonuses and pension plans while I’m still stuck on social assistance, labeled as unemployable. I have no doubt that my speech impairment played a huge role in acquiring that employment status, but proving it is a different matter. After all, that would have been social injustice. Discrimination, which is illegal.

Glenda Watson Hyatt speaking at Open Web Camp IV

Thankfully, i have found other ways to put my skills, talents and passion to use, in service of others. With perseverance and current technology, I have found a way to become a motivational speaker to share my message with audiences. (I love the irony here!)

I remain confident that my rightful compensation will eventually find its way into my bank account. And, after all of these years of un- and under-employment, that will be one juicy Christmas bonus when it finally does come.

Being self employed, I have been fortunate to surround myself with people who believe in me and who know I am capable and have much to offer. For example, in the next few weeks, I have a couple of podcast interviews. These solopreneurs are willing to give me and the technology a shot in order to share my experience, my story with their audiences.

Unfortunately, I do not have that same latitude in surrounding myself with people who believe in me when it comes to my healthcare. Oftentimes I need to deal with healthcare professionals as they come; I have very little choice. And, frankly, these “professionals” have no clue when it comes to interacting with an individual with a speech impairment or, for that matter, any disability. (Again, the irony.)

As one example (of many): on one trip to the Emergency Room when I had badly injured my foot, the nurse indicated that my husband Darrell had to go back to the waiting room because there wasn’t enough space for both of our wheelchairs.

Darrell explained that I needed him for communication purposes. But, once he relayed how the injury occurred and other necessary medical details, he was told to leave. The nurse assured him that she would come get him if he was needed. None of the other patients’ companions were forced to leave.

In that moment I wondered what were my patient’s rights. Patients who are Deaf wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) be denied access to an interpreter. Non-English speaking patients requiring a translator would definitely not be denied one; that would hit the news for sure.

Yet, I, with a significant speech impairment, was denied my means of communication. Darrell did hand me my iPad before leaving, just in case, but I wasn’t sure I could coherently type because I was in so much pain.

In this instance, I was suffering from only an injured foot. What if it had been serious or, even, life threatening? Would I have been still denied my means of communication? When my well-being or life is at stake, that is social injustice!

This needs to stop. Now. People’s well-being and lives are at stake.

Communication Access symbol symbol contains two faces, one talking, both watching and a two-way arrow indicating an exchange or interactionFor this reason and many others, Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC) is launching a 2.5-year national project Communication Access Now (CAN) to promote communication accessibility for people who have speech and language disabilities.

How can you become involved?

Check out the education and resources about making goods and services accessible to people with communication disabilities. Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

If you are in Vancouver, BC, on Monday, March 17th, please join us for the Communication Access Now event – an information session and a rallying of the people. To be held at the Creekside Community Recreation Centre, 1:00-3:00pm.

“We’re not gonna take it anymore.”

Our voices will be heard. Our voices need to be heard.

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If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a cafe mocha. Thanks kindly.

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Synthesized Voices: Not Unique Sounding, Until Now

Filed under: Living with a disability — by Glenda at 4:22 pm on Monday, February 24, 2014

Glebnda using a synthesized voice to deliver a motivational speech

Imagine hearing a voice before seeing the individual.

Chances are you can ascertain much information about the person from the voice which is as unique as a fingerprint: the person’s rough age, usually the gender and ethnicity, as well as the individual’s emotional state and more.

Individuals can be recognized by the sound of their voice.

However, for the the hundreds of thousands of individuals with speech impairments who rely on devices to communicate, this unique sound does not exist. Rather, they rely on a limited number of synthesized voices to be their voice.

The synthesized voice used by a world-renowned astrophysicist might be the exact same voice used by a 6-year-old boy entering elementary school or, sadly, even by a 6-year-old girl. These robot-sounding voices lack uniqueness, individuality and personality.

Individuals with speech impairments who rely on communication devices cannot be recognized by the sound of their voice.

Canadian speech scientist Rupal Patel took issue with this lack of unique-sounding voices in this often-ignored segmented of the population and did something about it!

Patel, an associate professor of speech language pathology and audiology at Northeastern University in Boston, “has developed technology and algorithms that mix the voice of a speech-impaired person with that of a healthy "speech donor.” (from CBC Technology & News)

Very briefly, she takes the voice (which might be as little as a few sounds) from an individual with impaired speech (the recipient) and mixes it with the sounds of a voice donor to create a customized, synthetic voice. Her 6-year-old daughter describes it as “mixing colours to paint voices.” Only the recipient receives this voice; no one else will ever have the same synthesized voice.

Watch her TED talk where Rupal’s explains her exciting project:

(Unfortunately this video is not captioned. For more information in text format, read Everything you need to know about donating your voice: Why you should help The Human Voicebank Initiative.)

For someone who relies on a synthesized voice – the same one as heard over the PA system at the Honolulu airport – when I deliver presentations, using my own, unique voice would be beyond unbelievable! Actually, merely thinking about it brings tears to my eyes.

For more information about the project and to become a voice donor or a voice recipient, visit the website If you have been blessed to have an understandable voice, I’d like to challenge you to become a voice donor and potentially change someone’s life.

For more of information about how I deliver motivational presentations with a synthesized voice, please visit my speaker site.

If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a cafe mocha. Thanks kindly.

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An Exciting Era We Live In: Technology Opens New Employment Opportunities

Filed under: Living with a disability — by Glenda at 7:51 pm on Friday, April 19, 2013

Darrell in his officeFor the past few years, my wonderful husband Darrell has been juggling teaching computer classes at three locations for the City of Surrey’s Park & Recreation.

Because of our sucky transit system, he typically wheels to and from each location. Last night he came home in the dark, drenched. Some days, like tomorrow, he wheels approximately 6 or so kilometres between two location, regardless of weather – in the cold, rain and wind. It is taking a toll on him and his wheelchair.

About a month or so ago he discovered Learn It Live, which offers a vast array of online courses taught by approved instructors. Darrell applied and was approved! Now he can share his computer knowledge from the comforts of his home office with anyone who has an internet connection. We are both hoping this turns out to be the solution he has been searching for.

Darrell has a knack for explaining computer concepts and terms in simple language, and a way of alleviating one’s fears when using the computer. He is also extremely patient. Those new to computers and seniors are drawn to him and appreciate his teaching style.

Darrell’s first online class "Quick n Simple Computer Maintenance for Beginners" is on Tuesday, April 23rd, at 5pm pacific/8pm eastern. This class is free to give him the chance to test the online classroom technology and to give people the opportunity to experience his knowledge (hopefully in exchange for a testimonial, if appropriate). If this free class interests you or might benefit someone you know, please check it out.

Good luck, Darrell! May this opportunity bring you further success.

If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a cafe mocha. Thanks kindly.

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