Glenda Watson Hyatt shares her
experiences living with cerebral palsy to
motivate and inspire others to think about
how they perceive their own situation and
their own world around them. She does all
this by typing with only her left thumb!
Read Glenda's Book - available in paperback and on the Kindle!
A tweetchat – a chat held on Twitter; typically with a guest host sharing an expertise with a specific group indicated by a hashtag (#). By the very nature of Twitter, anyone interested can participate in the chat.
Prior to the chat, I prepared my responses to Sheila’s questions as a series of tweets in SocialOomph – a handy tool for scheduling tweets and other such tasks. I also copied my tweets in to Notepad, just in case…having a back up plan is always wise!
During the chat:
I had the #AWCchat tweet stream open in Hootsuite on the left side of my screen,
my prepared tweets in SocialOomph on the right side of the screen, and
my WordQ word prediction/completion hovering in the upper right corner.
When Sheila asked a pre-set question during the chat, I hit “Publish immediately” on the corresponding response tweet in SocialOomph. Except for a 60-second delay in publishing, the system worked amazingly well.
In between Sheila’s questions, I was able to respond to questions from others on the chat. By the end of the hour, my left thumb was on fire (in a good way)! A transcript from the chat is now available.
A few years ago I would have never imagined myself guest hosting such a lively discussion in real life. But, because Twitter is largely text-based and because of the other handy tools, I now have something else to add to the “Can Do” column!
Before I had wrapped up the #AWCchat with Sheila, I was slated for my next tweetchat guest hosting: #SOBCon on February 16th, 10-11am pacific. Join us!
If you run a tweetchat and if my experience or expertise may be of service to your group, tweet me (@GlendaWH) or leave a comment below with the details.
Meeting Mark at SOBCon and hearing his story, I realized we shared a special bond: each of us has taken our unique circumstances, which others may see as debilitating and depressing, and we have turned them around for the greater good. As Reverend Robert Schuller would say, “We have turned our scars into stars!”
Having experienced homelessness (on Hollywood Boulevard, no less!), Mark is now turning the spotlight on those living on the streets – who we tend to ignore as we walk past – by sharing their stories via social media. Mark has criss-crossed the United States, sharing hundreds of heartbreaking as well as uplifting stories on Invisible People TV.
Thanks to support from PetroCanada, Delta Hotels, General Motors, the Government of Canada and others, Mark has begun a three-month trek across Canada to bring light to Canadians living on the streets, in the alleys and in the shadows.
Facebook, Twitter and such are tools. How they are used is in our hands. If used wisely, they have the power to connect people, to embrace friendships and to change the world. If used wastely, we become the tool.
Here’s my PowerPoint presentation in video with the transcript below:
Before I begin I would like to thank you all for coming to a conference on communicating plainly and clearly. I find it interesting that I, who have found a compelling way to deliver presentation despite my significant speech impairment, have been asked to present at such a conference. This only proves that the communication method is secondary to the message.
I’d also like to mention that when some people are nervous their faces turn beet red, when I’m nervous my head bobs for apples. The fact that you cannot see the apples makes me question which one of us has the disability.
Living with a disability in this era of Web 2.0 technology is exciting, filled with opportunity. Technology is finally catching up to what I truly need. However, it has been a long road with several bumps and lessons learned along the way.
My typing career began at the tender age of five on a Smith Corona electric typewriter outfitted with a key guard to increase my likelihood of hitting only one key at a time. I glided my hand, in an ergonomically compromised position, along the top of the typewriter and typed with my left thumb.
Occupational therapists and other adults tried desperately to get me to type in other ways, but nothing worked as well or felt as natural as typing with my left thumb, which shows I’m the only expert in knowing how my body works best. I still own a Smith Corona to write cheques, fill out forms and make quick notes.
In Grade 9, my guidance counsellor suggested I learn to use computers as they would likely benefit to me later. That was the wisest advice I received from any counsellor, ever. That year I started on an Apple IIe and learned AppleSoft Basic from a Grade 12 student during one of my study periods. In later grades a computer in the Learning Centre was made available to me for doing assignments, which eliminated the necessity to retype “good” copies of papers — a significant timesaver for me.
On New Year’s Day, 1988, I headed off to university with a Commodore 64 generously donated by two local Lions Clubs. This computer, and a subsequent, updated 286 were terrific tools that enabled me to complete my university papers and exams and begin to connect with the outside world in a technologically new, yet very ordinary way: via email and bulletin board systems.
But my computing life didn’t begin in earnest until I met Darrell my geek husband -his words, not mine! Together we worked out, and continue to discover, computer access methods that work best for me.
As an example, we replaced the mouse with a sturdy joystick. This affords me better control of the pointer, despite my jerky hand movements.
We then added the software program E Z Keys. To save time and effort while typing I currently use the features:
word prediction and completion, where numbered words are suggested dynamically as I type;
abbreviation expansion, where I type a couple of letters that automatically expand to phrases or complete sentences;
and automatic spaces, which are set to occur after punctuation.
When typing with only one thumb at ten words per minute, I need to be as efficient as possible. Even with this technology, writing my autobiography, I’ll Do It Myself, took me four years.
Keyboards without extra function keys or buttons across the top – that’s where I glide my hand – are becoming more difficult to find. And, invariably, one or two keys get gummed up, making the entire keyboard useless. (I require a lot of good dark chocolate when software is thwarting my best efforts!) I recently switched to a basic flexible, washable silicon keyboard without any extra buttons. The best thing about this fantastic assistive technology is that it isn’t AT, which means it isn’t outrageously priced. It cost 15 bucks at Staples!
Another cool piece of software I use frequently is TextAloud. Using this text-to-speech software with the synthesized voice of “Kate”, I am now able to give interviews, narrate videos as I please and make presentations such as this one. I dream of one day having a voice created using digital sampling of my and my family members’ voices and inflections to make my voice less Kate and more Glenda.
My foray into Web 2.0 began five years ago when I discovered blogging. I am not exaggerating, it changed my life forever. For the first time, I spoke with a clear, concise voice and could communicate with the world completely unhindered by my disability. Suddenly people were getting to know me – my thoughts, my opinions, my experiences – without being presented with my disability first. That isn’t to say I hide my disability, I am very open about my cerebral palsy on my blog. But my blog readers and friends get to know me before and beyond my cp. They call me the Left Thumb Blogger.
To highlight the change, I’d like to share a story: several years ago I attended a disability management conference. I was sitting in a room of 400 human resource managers, there to learn about employing people with disabilities, and I happened to be looking for a job. You’d think it would have been a room filled with opportunities, yet I have never felt so alone. No one spoke to me; no one interacted with me. My disability – or, moreover, my perceived disability – was the barrier.
Contrast that experience with this: I attend blogging and social media conferences – like BlogWorld in Las Vegas every October – and that uncomfortable, awkwardness about how to react to my jerky movements and my difficult-to-understand speech does not exist. Because I already have made online connections, relationships based on equal intellect and mutual respect, people already know there’s much more to me than my cp. Online introductions help bypass that awkward stage.
I work as a web accessibility consultant with three levels of government, transit authorities and non-profit organizations to improve accessibility of their websites for people with disabilities. I am sought after to assess website accessibility and suggest improvements. I write about accessibility issues on my blog Doitmyselfblog.com, give presentations and teach an online course to bloggers, enabling them to create more accessible content and, thus, increase their readership.
I also use Twitter and Facebook to connect with colleagues, friends and family. I prefer Twitter because tweets are limited to 140 characters — my left thumb keeps up quite nicely. It has become my water cooler. I work from home, but I no longer feel I’m working in a vacuum. There’s always someone around who asks or answers a question, offers or needs an encouraging word or shares a laugh with me regardless of whether I’m working through the day or night.
Like most discerning web users, I tend to avoid or spend less time on sites that are overwhelming. Instead I prefer those with clean, crisp design. For example, I prefer MyAlltop to Google Reader to follow the various blogs I read. Google Reader was hard to maintain with more articles added daily. MyAlltop – a simpler, cleaner reader that maintains the list at 5 articles per blog followed, adding new articles and dropping previous ones without action on my part to keep it manageable.
Other things I personally avoid or struggle with online include:
Search features like the one found on the official website for Americans with Disabilities Act, which involved a whopping four pages to complete a search. I might as well use Google — even if I have to scroll to find the appropriate link, it’s much less arduous than the endless clicking.
Tiny clickable areas can be difficult for me to click on.
Fly out menus are tricky to click on before vanishing and I typically click on a link I didn’t intend to go.
Auto-start audio or video cause me to jump out of my skin.
A new challenge has popped up in recent months that sends my frustration through the roof: My assistive technology is not keeping up with new web technology. An example: I have started using Google Wave – an online collaboration tool – to collaborate, brainstorm and stay connected with a networking group. The conflict between Google Wave and my E Z Keys word prediction is causing two or three words to be typed when I enter an appropriate number, forcing me to backspace to delete unwanted words.
To avoid this, I can also type my message in Notepad and then paste it into Wave, but really, both options are more time consuming and less efficient than properly functioning software, and particularly frustrating during the collaborative process.
I recently purchased my latest acquisition in Chicago – an iPad. This is more than the latest, hottest toy to me. In the short time I’ve had it, my life has changed yet again. I bought it to try the communication app Proloquo2Go, and used it as my communication device of choice that first day I had it, both at the social media conference, and afterward, hanging out with friends at the bar! My iPad takes conversation to a deeper level than was ever imaginable when using standard, low-tech alphabet cards to get a point across.
The iPad, pricey to the average person, is available at a fraction of the cost of a single-purpose augmentative communication device. An easy method of communication is so important to my inclusion in society. It also allows me to tweet, check email, write blog posts and read while I am out and about, away from my computer. My iPad is a Blackberry or iPhone in a size I can easily use.
I was asked to look toward the future, and tell you of a technology I might wish for. A dream I have had since I was ten is a computer that reads my thoughts, with every word appearing onscreen. There has been some advancement in the brain research and relevant technology, hopefully it is realized well before my left thumb needs to retire due to debilitating arthritis. One can dream…
If I may offer one final suggestion: learn about your clients, your colleagues, your patients with disabilities, go read their blogs. Spend time getting to know the people you serve and work with beyond their disabilities and it will likely change you. The opportunity is there, like never before. Use it.
To offer you a starting point, today I have published a post on my blog that lists several of my favourite blog posts and some of the bloggers with disabilities or with loved ones with disabilities whom I follow. I invite you to stop by, to read and to experience.
I submitted my speaker’s proposal in early July. Because SXSW is a community-driven event, acceptance of my proposal is determined by three factors:
30% by SXSW staff,
40% by the Advisory Board – a group of industry professionals from across the US and around the world,
30% by you, my loyal readers and fans!
Voting is now open until Friday, August 27, 2010, at 11:59pm central time. To vote, you’ll need to create a account (name, email and password). (The Panel Picker interface is experiencing a few hiccups today. Please persist!)
Liz Strauss continually shares nuggets of wisdom that leave me pondering and savouring it in my mind until I’ve fully sucked out all of the flavour, all of the meaning.
During her keynote at this year’s SOBCon (Successful and Outstanding Bloggers Conference), she tossed out another nugget of wisdom:
You’re building a barn, not a coliseum.
I have been pondering, savouring those words since April 30th. While busily building the Blog Accessibility Mastermind course and website over the last few weeks, I’ve realized there are three points to Liz’s words:
1. A barn is not huge.
Coliseums are monstrosities; barns are not. Start with something small.
I had been intending to launch Blog Accessibility Mastermind (BAM) since September, but writing the thirteen lessons was a daunting task and other commitments kept distracting me. Reframing BAM from a 13-lesson comprehensive course to a 6-lesson introductory course made the project more manageable, more doable. The project was then possible to get off the ground; revisions and additions can come later.
2. A barn is solid, not finely polished.
A barn is solidly built and serves it purpose: to house livestock. The walls are not finely sanded and flawlessly painted. This is not imperfection; it’s beauty, in it’s own way.
My main focus is building solid content for the individuals who are kindly paying to learn something new. Although having a forum in which members could discuss course content and share ideas would be nice, finding an accessible forum application and setting it up is time consuming. Using the comment section within the members’ area will work equally as well and is something familiar to the members who are bloggers and know how to interact in the comment section.
3. Actually, it’s a barn raising.
Reminiscing my Little House on the Prairies days, a farmer didn’t build a barn. The community came together to raise barns, with each individual contributing his or her skill or talent.
For someone who, in the past, has tried to do everything herself, to control everything herself, this was the most difficult point to learn. Seeing the strengths and talents in others is easy, but then stepping back to allow them to do what they do best – and accepting how they do it – is the difficult part.
However, in the end, the key to a successful barn raising is accepting the talents and energy from others as gifts and graciously welcoming them into the community. Their wanting to be involved in the project is a testament to the barn being raised.
Once the barn is raised, all those involved join in a celebration meal. Since hosting such a celebration with fried chicken and apple pie isn’t possible virtually, I would like to publicly thank those involved in the raising of Blog Accessibility Mastermind:
To those I may have missed here, thank you for your never-ending support.
And, last but definitely not least in any way, my wonderful husband Darrell for his unwavering support, patience and understanding, for keeping me well stocked in chocolate and for the ever increasing runs to Tim Horton’s for a caffeine fix.
When the time comes to raise your barn, you can count on me.