Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt

Motivational Speaker

From a Speech Impairment to a Motivational Speaker: How Did I Get Here?

Filed under: Motivation — by at 2:53 pm on Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Glenda Watson Hyatt speaking at Open Web Camp IV
(Photo credit: Dirk Ginader)

While sitting at the airport gate last July, waiting to board the plane to Portland and then onto San Jose where I was scheduled to deliver two presentations on web accessibility, I wondered, "How did I, an individual with a significant speech impairment and a physical disability, get here?"

I pulled out my iPad and made some notes, which I found a few days ago.

I asked myself again: how DID I get there – sitting at the gate, waiting to board a plane to the States to give two presentations?

I flashed back to one brief session that Mom and I spent with Fred, the guidance counsellor, during my last year at high school. Thumbing through the various university calendars and brochures, the Certified General Accountant program sounded somewhat appealing. I was good at math and I could take the courses via correspondence, which would be perfect because my family was moving to isolated rural living once I graduated. I could then establish a business and work from home as a CGA. That was the extent of my career planning. Seriously.

I did one year of the two-year program, but I slowly realized that I wanted more in life; something more than sitting alone in my bedroom, working on boring accounting assignments. (This was long before the Internet and life as I know it today.)

One thing led to another and I found myself living on my own in a one-bedroom apartment in residence at Simon Fraser University atop Burnaby Mountain. After taking a course or two per semester for seven years straight, I graduated with my Bachelor of Arts (BA) with a major in psychology and a minor in Communications.

A minor in Communications. That is somewhat related to giving presentations; kind of. But that still didn’t fully explain how I was about to board a plane on my way to two speaking gigs.

Following a few twists and turns after graduating with my BA, I found myself giving the occasional presentation. However this was long before the text-to-speech software that I use today. Presentations were participatory: audience members took turns reading aloud text on the PowerPoint slides.

When presenting at one local conference, the laptop refused to communicate with the LCD projector. For the thinking-on-my-feet solution, I had attendees come up to the front, one at a time, to read aloud what was on the screen. Now that is a highly participatory session! For my next presentation I prepared acetate sheets for the overhead projector, as a backup plan. But I digress.

Life continued meandering until another twist came in April, 2005. I share this excerpt from my autobiography I’ll Do It Myself:

I was asked to speak at the Social Planning and Research Council of British Columbia’s (SPARC BC), “Beyond the Obvious: Exploring the Accessible Community Dialogue”. My initial thought was But I don’t give speeches. I can’t. Since I was raised without the word “can’t “in my vocabulary, that was a fleeing thought. I quickly turned my thought to How can I do this?

I had been using the free computer software ReadPlease for a couple of years to proofread my writing. ReadPlease reads aloud text that is copied into the program. I thought, Maybe I could put ReadPlease onto my laptop and have it read aloud my speech for me. I hesitantly agreed to speak. Unsure if the technology would work, I took a printed copy of the speech with me, in case I needed someone else to read it on my behalf.

Finally, it was my turn to take the stage. Being on stage alone for the first time in my life, with two hundred eyes staring at me, I wanted to run. But, I didn’t. I gave my speech. When I was done, I left the stage, trembling. I had given my first ever speech! And the technology worked!

Glenda delivering her first speech

Afterwards something amazing happened. For the rest of the day people actually came up to me and spoke with me. I was heard for the first time. I was no longer invisible, no longer silent. It was an amazing, unexplainable feeling that I would like to experience again. I would like to give more speeches. I would like to be heard again.

Since that moment, I have delivered several more presentations. Each time I was heard again; an experience that has yet to get old for me.

How did I get here?

By taking the less traveled road. For an individual with a significant speech impairment, being a motivational speaker is not the most obvious career choice.

By taking a deep breath, believing in myself and  saying “Yes, I can!” to something least expected from someone who does not speak clearly.

By figuring out the technology, with much assistance and support from my husband Darrell, to make it possible for me to travel this path.

By surrounding myself with people who will not let me fail; people who see beyond my disability and push me to become all that I can be.

In a snapshot, that is how I ended up waiting for a flight to San Jose. And, to be honest, that is how I hope to get to visit more places and to deliver many more presentations.

For this reason I am beyond excited to announce my new site, my speaker site at

By following along this path less traveled to be a motivational speaker, my intention is to encourage, to entice, to motivate you to move forward, to go for it, to strive for your potential and to live life more fully.

Please visit my speaker site for more information about this adventure. And, thank you for joining me in this amazing journey.

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

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

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An Early Valentine’s Day Love Story

Filed under: Motivation — by at 10:49 pm on Thursday, February 7, 2013

Two weeks ago the Marketing Manager at Reality Controls approached me about their application control:mapper, "which is helping to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities through motion and voice control technology. Desktop computers can be controlled by voice, arm, head, torso and feet motions." I was intrigued and, because they are in Vancouver, I was interested in seeing it in action. However, my Faith kitty was unwell and I didn’t dare leave her alone.

Today, Faith was well enough to leave. Darrell came with me. I had asked earlier if he could, because I thought he would be interested in trying the application too since he is such a geek.

The control:mapper definitely is intriguing and will make gaming (and other applications) more accessible to people with motor disabilities.

I appreciated having Darrell with me because he was able to translate Glenda-ish. Even though I have my iPad for communication, having my husband translate is still easier and more efficient. He also offered valuable ideas and insights to the development team.

Darrell and I ended up having lunch at McDonald’s for the sole reason that I was in DESPERATE NEED for an accessible washroom. (His pit stop earlier that morning was not an option for me. Enough said.)

He was dreading going back to the SkyTrain Station because of the seemingly steep hill en route; that is what happens with a lack of depth perception and spatial orientation. Working around his dread, we wheeled an extra 12-15 blocks to another station (with a familiar hill). It was a quasi spring day, so why not enjoy an unplanned road trip together?

Along the way, we happened across Purdy’s Chocolates Headquarters and Factory. We experienced the store, of course.

Give and take, and working as a team: that is how love works.

Happy Valentine’s, a little early!

Glenda sitting outside of Purdy's Chocolates

“When life takes you pass a chocolate factory, ENTER!”

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

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5 Lessons I Have Learned from My Faith Kitty

Filed under: Motivation — by at 7:57 pm on Wednesday, January 30, 2013

My Faith kitty has been unwell for a week. Geriatric Vestibular Syndrome? Brain tumour? Diabetes? I do not yet know. Yesterday’s blood test does not reveal a definitive answer. What ever it turns out to be, hopefully it is easily treated.

I am taking a leave from everything that can wait. Writing about my evening with Oprah (!) can wait, as can launching my speaker site, finishing year-end bookkeeping and sundry other things that typically occupy my time. Rather, I am spending my time caring for and watching over Faith – my top priority at the moment.

Glenda sitting beside Faith under the blanket

In this photo, the green lump beside me is Faith, safe and cozy under the Mom-knitted blanket. Note the water and food bowls on the end of the couch: the cutting edge trend in home decor!

During this leave I have had time to reflect the upon the lessons I have learned from Faith over the last (nearly) 17 years:

1. When tired, nap. She often tells me it is nap time. I am not sure whether it is because she knows better than I do when I need a nap or it is because she needs time with me, on her terms. Either way, I generally do not argue; she is persistent.

2. Be in the moment. Whatever might happened tomorrow, next week or next month might or might not happen. Right now a purring kitty wants her ear rubbed or her back massaged – until she tells me she has had enough. If I am listening and paying attention, I don’t need to be told a second time because that involves a claw in the back of my hand, immediately bringing me back to the now.

3. Relinquish ego and control. Faith cuddles on her own terms, not when I would like her to and I need to be okay with this. Surely this can be applied to other aspects of life too.

4. Take the last bite of a meal to another level. Faith typically takes the last mouthful to the floor to eat; when the bath mat is down, even better. I have yet to realize the significance of this, but I am sure a profound one exists. After 17 years, I am still learning.

5. Appreciate the small gestures made by others. Both will feel good.

Faith lying on a towel in the sun with the caption: "The cat says, "If your bed isn't in the sun, have your people move your bed!"

What lessons have your beloved pets taught you?

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2012: Time with Family and Friends, Memorable

Filed under: Motivation — by at 6:51 pm on Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Reflecting upon the last year, 2012 was a good one. Amazing, in fact! Adopting the 4-Hour Workday (although not always perfectly implemented) and letting go of one career choice in favour of a new adventure have positively changed my energy and my outlook for the upcoming year.

Before diving into 2013, I’d like to share highlights from 2012, many of which are represented in photos.

On beautiful days Darrell and I grabbed our respective cameras and headed out somewhere we could easily get to. These photo wheels became an outside activity we enjoyed together.

One of my favourite photos from the year remains:

Glenda peering through her camera mounted to her scooter with Gorilla tripod

What makes me grateful is that, because of the technology – in my case, my scooter, my Gorilla tripod and my point-n-click camera, Darrell and I now have a hobby we share.

Meike and I have been friends since senior high school. Although we don’t see each other that often, we always have fun, have a few laughs and find trouble! (Not necessarily in that order…) This time around it was the Cloverdale Parade and Rodeo (read the full account of our escapade):

Glenda and Meike

Hands down, my favourite place any Saturday afternoon…!

Glenda standing up to receive kisses and a nuzzle from a horse

And…there is nothing like saying "Hell, ya!" when an opportunity presents itself…


Thanks to friend and mentor John Foliot, early July Found me in San Francisco and then in San Jose to give two presentations. The first presentation was for a corporate client, where one individual in attendance was the son of the founders of a well-known American coffeehouse chain. Had I known that beforehand, I might have rethought using this photo in my PowerPoint:

Several Starbucks and Tim Horton's coffee cups on my desk

In between events, John and I had a bit time to kill and he asked if there was anything I would like to see. I did! I didn’t need to think about the question and let an opportunity go wasted.

His top-drawer service included a car tour of Stanford, Cupertino, and the Apple campus (not necessarily in that order) and then…the Golden Gate Bridge! The weather wasn’t the best for taking in the entire view of the bridge, but that didn’t matter. What did matter is that two friends shared the moment together. (John had yet to see the bridge despite living in the Bay Area for six years.) Sometimes it isn’t the photo that is great, but rather the memory that it represents:

Foggy Golden Gate Bridge viewed from inside car

Without any question, Saturday, July 28th, 2012, will be remembered by many for years to come! Thanks to the kind folks at Wish Upon a Hero and many others, I conquered the Rocky Steps in Philadelphia in a mere 7 minutes.

Here’s a brief recap of the day…

Standing between Rocky impersonator Mike Kunda and the inspiration for the Rocky movies Chuck Wepner – an-art-imitating-life kind of moments – was one of my most humbling and awe-inspiring moments…

Mike Kunda, Glenda Watson Hyatt and Chuck Wepner standing at the top of the Rocky steps

From Philadelphia I went on to Pittsburgh for ISAAC (International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication). That conference was tough because I went alone and none of my peeps were there, and because I was thrown a few curve balls as a presenter. But I did meet a few new friends:

  • Lisa, an Australian Sex Party member, is demolishing the myth “No sex, please. We’re disabled.” Need I say more? Smile We had a great conversation the last night with Proloquo2Go on our respective iDevices until, after one margarita, the text on her iPhone became way too small for me to read. There is nothing like two new friends bonding by sharing one iPad (with large text) to communicate. It’s likely a good thing the conference ended when it did, otherwise we might have found trouble together – or trouble might have found us.
  • Marlena Katena epitomizes “Grab life by its balls and live it." Watch her theaacjournalist channel on YouTube and be inspired.
  • 4-year-old Leo stole my heart. (Sorry dear, but he did!) Having a conversation with our two iPads was definitely THE special moment of the conference. I struggled hard to swallow the tears. He is light years ahead by beginning his communication journey with an iPad. I love this news story his mom sent to me: horseback riding with his iPad mounted to the horse. Light years ahead! (In the video, he is the boy in the blue jacket.)

    You go, Leo! You are amazing. Dream big and you will go onto achieve many great things.

In September, as a delayed celebration of our 14th anniversary (I was in Pittsburgh for our actual anniversary. Oops!), Darrell and I joined Mom and Auntie Fern for one of their “ferry cruises”. With miles of water between them, the two sisters have found a way to connect by visiting on the BC Ferries, while enjoying the buffet. Ingenious!

On our return trip, we were lucky to pass a pod of orca whales. The captain slowed the ferry so that we all had an opportunity to marvel at the sight of whales breaching. Imagine whale watching for the price of a BC Ferries’ passenger fare! This is one of amazing photos Darrell shot:

Three orca whales

Mother and daughter enjoying time together on the water: priceless!

Mom and daughter enjoying time on the water

The special commonality amongst these highlights is they are all memories created by taking time to spend time with friends and family, away from online. And that is so valuable these days.

Who is up for creating memories together in 2013?

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What Impossible Idea Would You Attempt If Surrounded by People Who Won’t Let You Fail?

Filed under: Motivation — by at 2:18 pm on Thursday, October 4, 2012

You must do the one thing you think you cannot.

~ Eleanor Roosevelt

For those of you who I have yet had the pleasure of meeting face-to-face, I speak Glenda-ish – English with a unique accent due to my significant speech impairment, a result of my cerebral palsy.

Over the last forty-some years, my inability to easily communicate verbally with anyone anywhere has been more of a barrier, more of a disability than my inability to walk independently, and has resulted in frustration, isolation and missed interactions.

Glenda Watson Hyatt presenting on stage at SXSW 2011
(Photo credit: Paul Merrill)

In recent years, with the advances in technology – text-to-speech software, iPads and such – verbal communication has become possible. Because of these technologies and opportunities that have presented themselves to me, I have had the pleasure of giving numerous presentations – something I never imagined possible in my wildest dreams.

Now, I feel myself being magnetically drawn to My Second Most Unlikely Career Choice: a public speaker. (My first most unlikely career choice is a neurosurgeon.) The irony of this direction: terrifying yet exciting.

This past weekend, my husband Darrell and I attended SOBCon (a think tank for solopreneurs and small businesses) in Portland, Oregon. Founder Liz Strauss kicked off the conference by pointing out we were surrounded by people who won’t let us fail.

I definitely felt that. No matter who I shared my crazy idea with, they were all supportive of my intention to become a motivational speaker; they asked questions and offered insights, ideas and contacts.

Charlie Gilkey from Productive Flourishing did say that there would be challenges along the way. Yes, there will be. A few that quickly come to mind include: explaining to event organizers how someone with a significant speech impairment can deliver a presentation of high value, getting to the venues and up on stage (been there, done that!), and having the right words to deliver the best message that I can. However, those challenges (and countless others that will no doubt pop up along the way) are not insurmountable.

All weekend, not one person looked at my shaky jerkiness and my indecipherable speech and said, “Are you kidding me? There’s no way you can do that.” Not one person.

Can you appreciate the mind bend I have been struggling with since getting home on Sunday night. I am putting plans in place to become the one thing that, until recently, I thought I could not. This is possible because of advances in technology and because I am surrounded by people – both from SOBCon and elsewhere – who won’t let me fail.

What is the one thing you think you cannot do but are being urged to try? Can you identify people within your circle who will not let you fail? Or, who do you need to connect with to surround yourself with positive, supportive, creative-thinking people who want to see you succeed? What would that mean to you to accomplish the one thing you think you cannot?

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

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

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

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