Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt

Your Accessibility Conscience

“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 VocalIiD.org. 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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I Can Communicate, But Is My Voice Being Fully Heard?

Filed under: Living with a disability — by Glenda at 7:00 pm on Thursday, March 21, 2013

Glenda using her iPad

Reading Robert Hummel-Hudson’s blog post Finding Her Own Voice has me thinking about the difference between “voice” and “communicate”. (I wonder how many people have ever sat down to really consider the difference between these two terms that might appear synonymous upon first ponder.)

Text-to-speech devices enable individuals to communicate, but are our voices fully heard? How can we reflect panic, softness or passion with these devices?

In my pondering, I recalled a moment at last summer’s ISAAC conference (the international conference on augmentative and assistive communication). One afternoon I attended a Town Hall, which had a somewhat futuristic sounding vibe because only people using AAC were allowed to speak. The talkies needed permission to speak.

At one point, I needed to swallow a giggle after an abrupt “No” came from a robotic sounding voice from somewhere in the dimly lit auditorium, in response to what the moderator had said from the stage. A few moments later came a response from a somewhat similar sounding voice elsewhere in the room. The slow paced conversation continued between the similar sounding robotic voices.

With spoken voices, the individual speaking can be identified and much information can be garnered from the sound of the voice: the speaker’s rough age, usually the gender and ethnicity, as well as the speaker’s emotional state and such.

However, with these synthesized voices, most of this information cannot be determined from the sound alone. These voices sound so alike.

This is one reason why, a few years ago, I was immediately drawn to NeoSpeech’s Kate, who I use in my presentations and videos. Kate’s voice is different, distinct; dare I say, even sexy. It was love at first sound byte!

Yet, Kate does have her limitations. When I am creating a presentation, part of the process is what I call “kate-izing”: tweaking her pronunciation to be as correct as possible, e.g., is “read” to be spoken as “reed”’ or “red”? Oftentimes the tweaks are fairly straightforward, but there are hilarious moments while I, with a significant speech impairment, attempt to correct the pronunciation of a synthesized voice. It feels like high tech speech therapy!

The tweaking of her pronunciation is relatively easy; the conveying of emotion is what I have yet to make her communicate. The excitement. The passion. The rant.

I acknowledge that this is one of my challenges as I move forward with my motivational speaking. I will need to rely even more heavily on the right choice of words rather than on tone and inflection to fully communicate the message I am aiming to get across. Yes,  I can also use my body language and facial expressions, but, with my cerebral palsy, that is not always under my full control either. It will be a learning process with much experimenting to find an effective way to use my voice fully.

An interesting ponderment, isn’t it?


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

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Life with a Speech Impairment: A Toolbox of Communication Methods Required

Filed under: Living with a disability — by Glenda at 7:33 pm on Thursday, March 14, 2013

So…how do I communicate when I have a significant speech impairment?

It really depends upon the situation and degree of familiarity the other individual has with my Glenda-ish.

Allow me to explain.

Phone calls with individuals without any experience in Glenda-ish

Text chat on SkypeIn the last two weeks, the need arose for two phone calls with people not indoctrinated into my unique dialect. It is difficult for people to understand that, yes, I am a motivational speaker, yet chatting on the phone is not possible – until they master Glenda-ish.

Thank goodness for Skype!

I text chat while the other individual talks. Or, we both text, which results in a complete record of our conversation. There is no need to take notes. Yes!

Meeting with friends still learning Glenda-ish

Glenda and Avril next to a colourful dragon lanternWhen my friend Avril and I spent a wonderful afternoon at the Vancouver Art Gallery and then wandered around the Chinese New Year festivities, I spoke a few words, which she was fairly good at deciphering.

Once we had ordered our award-winning gelato – my choices indicated by saying “two” or “four” (from the top on the posted menu) – and were sitting at a table, I whipped out my iPad to use the keyboard with word prediction in Proloquo2Go. That allowed for a deeper and more equal conversation.

Glenda Watson Hyatt and Karen PutzA few weeks later, when my friend Karen from Chicago came in to town for an all-day workshop the following day, I had the pleasure of greeting her at the airport and then going for lunch at Steamworks right downtown.

With Karen being Deaf, another layer of communication is added to the mix. Because using my iPad on the SkyTrain is not overly wise, I pulled out a communication skill I learned many, many moons ago in Brownies: finger spelling! It did the trick quite nicely.

Likewise, a couple of years ago when I met my friend Jennison, his blindness required yet another layer of communication since he couldn’t see what I was typing on my iPad. Thankfully the Proloquo2Go app has a Speak button. Jennison listened to what I had typed. We proceeded with an easy flowing conversation.

Meeting with the Master

After seeing Karen to her hotel, I zipped next door to the Metrotown Mall to find an accessible washroom. As it was only mid-afternoon, I had the urge to ask Darrell if he would like to meet for coffee at our Tim Horton’s.

But I don’t have a cell phone. Not a problem. I whipped into Chapters Bookstore and parked close enough to the Starbucks area to borrow their wifi. Using the Skype app on my iPad, I texted my husband and arranged to meet him in half an hour.

Sitting at Tim’s with our cafe mochas in hand, we talked for an hour or so, which isn’t unusual for us, without any hiccups in communication, except for the “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” moments. I cherish the conversations we still have, after nearly fifteen years of marriage.

Glenda Watson Hyatt and Darrell Hyatt

For me, having a significant speech impairment means having a toolbox of various communication methods that was I can mash together and switch out in a fluid manner, depending upon the situation and the needs in that moment. It truly is that simple.


To keep up with my adventures, musings and insights, be sure to subscribe to DoItMyselfBlog.com.

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

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