Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt

Your Accessibility Conscience

Communication Access: The Last Frontier in Accessibility

Filed under: General, Work — by Glenda at 2:09 pm on Friday, May 2, 2014

Communication Access symbol symbol contains two faces, one talking, both watching and a two-way arrow indicating an exchange or interaction

One morning, many moons ago…back in high school, while I was wheeling past the school office on my way to class, the boys’ guidance counsellor happened to be in the hallway and asked, “Glenda, would you rather be able to walk or to talk?”

Some people might find that question insensitive or even offensive. I found it sincere and genuinely interested.

I am puzzled by society’s obsession with the ability to walk. That not being able to move about upright on one’s own two feet makes you less of a person, less worthy or valuable. And it is something that needs fixing or curing.

But the inability to clearly communicate verbally is far more disabling. For some reason, which I still do not understand, the majority of society links the ability to speak with the ability to hear and to understand. When encountering someone who has troubles speaking or who they assume do not understand, they automatically begin talking louder and slower, and even use hand gestures as if an impromptu game of Charades had broken out.

Not being able to speak clearly causes much frustration, misunderstanding and isolation. It means the daily interactions people have with others without even thinking about it becomes an ordeal. Little things like making a hair appointment, ordering an iced mocha latte with skim milk, or talking with one’s doctor in private becomes an ordeal, if not impossible. It also means missed opportunities when it comes to socializing, making friends, and finding jobs. This negatively impacts one’s self-esteem and self-confidence, leading to further social isolation.

To the counsellor’s question, I immediately uttered “talk” and continued, unfazed, on my way to class.

Nearly thirty-five years later, the last frontier in accessibility is finally being addressed: communication access.

Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC) has launched a 2.5-year national project Communication Access Now (CAN) to promote communication accessibility for people who have speech and language disabilities.

If that isn’t fantastic enough, I am excited to share that I am now the Social Media Coordinator for this national awareness campaign; a project very dear to my heart for obvious reasons. I am now tweeting and facebooking (that is a word, right?) on behalf of Communication Access Now. I get to help get the message out, using communication tools I love! How perfect.

How can you become involved?

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

Please join us in this awareness campaign. Together, we can conquer this final frontier in accessibility.

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

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Why are There No Cautions Before Smacking Face First into Invisible Walls?

Filed under: Work — by Glenda at 1:22 pm on Monday, January 30, 2012

Have you ever smacked face first into an invisible wall, landing on your butt and asking yourself, “Huh? Where did that come from?”

Last week while working with my business advisor, one assignment felt uncomfortable and I was squirming in my chair while doing it. She asked,  “Why do you find asking these few people whether or not they know what products and services you offer so uncomfortable? Are you not proud of what you do?”

That question touched something and I smacked face first into that invisible wall. Huh?  Why did that apparently harmless question trigger such a response? Why was the task so uncomfortable and icky?

Taking time to mull it over, two possible reasons came to mind:

The first seemed irrelevant, but being the first thing that came to mind, I explored further. Several years ago, a family member, after observing me do some work for him, asked, “Why should employers pay you more because you take longer to complete a task?” A fair question, but it stung and has stayed with me ever since.

Being self-employed for the past thirteen years, I nearly always under invoice when charging by the hour to compensate for any extra time I might have taken and to ensure my clients receive high value for their money. The higher my hourly fee, the more likely I am to under charge. Why should they pay more because I might take longer than someone else?

Although the question may be fair – from an employer’s or client’s perspective – it has undermined my self-confidence as a businesswoman, as a subject matter expert. When hitting the wall last week, I realized I could choose to continue allowing that moment be a defining one or I could choose to dismiss it as insignificant.

it also struck me that my business is a sole proprietorship; I am in charge. I can choose which advisors, mentors, coaches, and colleagues to work with. There are no silent partners calling the shots. Why was I letting that one remark have such control over me and my business?

The second reason that came to mind was asking such questions of the select few individuals was such foreign territory for me. I was concerned about annoying them, about coming across as a hard nosed business person or something I couldn’t put my finger on. Asking them that kind of question hadn’t even occurred to me before. Once my advisor gave me a phrase to use, the task became doable, even though I still felt uncomfortable in asking.

After receiving the very first response, I could see the value in asking the series of four questions. By the next morning I was ready to ask my entire subscriber list of 270 people. In fact, I couldn’t get to my desk fast enough!

Reflecting upon the experience, I now wonder: why do these invisible walls exist? How many others exist, limiting and confining me? How can they be discovered without smacking face first into them? Why are there no caution signs or warning bells?

How do you deal with invisible walls?

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

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Welcome to my office…Come on in!

Filed under: Work — by Glenda at 11:08 pm on Monday, August 15, 2011

Glenda's corner officeEarlier this summer I shared my temporary work space in gray, windowless CubeLand. I’d like to now share my bright, corner office where I spend way too much of my time.

With windows facing south and west, light floods in on sunny days. On gray winter days, the lime green walls keep the space alive and cheery.

Glenda's desk

Some of the features that make my work time a little easier and more comfortable include:

  1. Spill-proof silicone keyboard: A must for this workaholic who eats at her desk. No more gummed up keys!
  2. Traxsys joystick: Easier for me to control than a mouse. And, it doesn’t cause hand pain like using a mouse does.
  3. Wrist pad: Placed on the topside of the keyboard (rather than the bottom), I slide my hand along the pad while tying with my left thumb. It places my hand in a slightly different position than without the pad, which reduces the strain.
  4. Belkin KVM switch: Allows me to switch between my two computers; the latest with a 6-core processor and 4G of RAM was a surprise from my husband upon my return from CubeLand. Such a sweetie!
  5. Extension cord with switch: Flicking the switch is much easier than twisting a small knob to turn on my lamp.
  6. Oxford dictionary and thesaurus: Obviously a necessity for any writer to have handy. Sometimes I do look up definitions online, but I still like using a real dictionary and thesaurus. They also serve as a visible reminder that I am a writer.
  7. Seedlings growing in a can: Conference swag from Accessibility Yahoo – the best swag I’ve received yet. Most of that stuff ends up in the hotel room garbage can while packing.
  8. Wiskas All Natural Temptations: Treats to keep my cat content while I am trying to work. Product placement perhaps, but if it results in a blog sponsor, bonus! But I really do keep a package of cat treats at my desk.

In terms of software, these are my favourites:

  • Sticky Keys: A feature available in Microsoft Windows that enables me to do a multiple-button command (like SHIFT + M) one button at a time.
  • WordQ: Word prediction software that saves this left thumb several keystrokes. The “read” feature is handy when proofreading my writing. WordQ finally replaced my beloved EZ Keys.
  • TextAloud: The text-to-speech tool I use for creating the audio files for my presentations.
  • SnagIt: A handy screen capture and graphics program that I use almost daily.
  • FreeMind: An open-source mind-mapping tool that is largely, if not totally, keyboard operable. I use it for keeping track of everything I have on the go and everything I need to do.

My cat Faith sound asleep on the desk

And, of course, my office wouldn’t be complete without Faith, my Chief Feline Officer, in her position at my desk.

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

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How Many CFOs Enjoy This Perk?

Filed under: Work — by Glenda at 6:38 pm on Thursday, August 11, 2011

I don’t recall when the perk was first implemented, but my CFO insists on it every time I return from errands outside of the office.

Let me explain…

My CFO, aka Faith, my Chief Feline Officer, greets me at the front door and then jumps on my indoor scooter before I even park my outside one beside it.

She assumes the position and then waits…for an invigorating back massage; the duration of which is directly proportionate to have long I have been away. I was there for a while after my two weeks in Mississauga.

Rubbing her face on the scooter controls gives a new meaning to the phrase “face off”.

She does not not relinquish my scooter until she is adequately massaged.

(The only sounds are background noise, one meow, and purring; hence, no captioning.)

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

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What I Learned from My Eight and a Half Days in CubeLand

Filed under: Work — by Glenda at 4:32 pm on Thursday, July 7, 2011

While working from home for the last thirteen years, I have often wondered what I am missing by not having a regular 9-5 job. What is life like on the other side?

For eight and a half days in June I had the opportunity to experience CubeLand. A client needed a web accessibility review conducted on an internal site; hence I conducted the review on-site rather than remotely as I have done with previous reviews. I spent twelve days in Mississauga, Ontario; staying at a nearby hotel and eating at the mall’s food court and restaurants.

Fortunately the commute from the hotel to the office was only a 8 minute (if that) wheel, which was pleasant in the mornings and evenings in decent weather; a nice separation between home and work – something I don’t have working from home. I did miss the mountains though.

Along a Mississauga street

The first morning, waiting in the office building lobby for my contact to arrive (he was 30 minutes late due to traffic), I observed others coming into work on Monday morning; robot-like, carrying their cups of motivation.

The building’s interior was intriguing: the three elevators went up the middle of the building. At each level, bridges went from the elevators out to the offices around the perimeter of the building.

Interior of office building

No doubt the design intended to give a more open, spacious feeling. But sitting there, I felt the creative energy and excitement drain out of me. Perhaps it was just my imagination.

Up until this point, I thought wearing a lanyard with a security pass was a symbol of belonging, a sign of credibility. After wearing one around my neck for 8.5 days to open doors, my view quickly changed to one of annoyance. I am now thankful I don’t need something hanging around my neck to navigate my usual workplace. Besides, I prefer opening doors with only a smile!

My workspace was the third workstation at a long desk of three. Initially, working in such close proximity to others was somewhat daunting as my athetoid cerebral palsy tends to kick into full gear when others are nearby. But, having an intern within arm’s reach proved to be valuable as I required ongoing bits of information to navigate the site. (Thanks Tilac!)

The gray, partial cubicle – with windows off in the distance that I could see the top few inches by popping my head over the cube farm – was sufficient for the work I was there to do. However I am not sure I could have accomplished anything more creative, like write a blog post; although maybe that would have come with time and practice.

My work space in a partial cubicle

Having some websites blocked was also a drag. Sometimes using Twitter is definitely work related; other times not so much. I missed not having fellow colleagues in the web accessibility field at my fingertips.

Screen explaining why website is blocked

The best part of CubeLand was the people – a welcoming, accepting group. “Good morning, Glenda. How was your night?” was such a warm way to begin the day.

I sense the face-to-face contact with people (and a regular paycheque) is what I am missing most by not having a J O B. I need to make more of an effort to get out and connect with people, particularly during the nice weather months.

The most important gain from this trip is a legitimatization of what I do. For the past thirteen years I have been working from home, not marketing my services as much as I ought to be for fear that I didn’t know as much I think I do and that I’d be discovered as a fraud.

During those eight and a half days in CubeLand, I emerged from behind the curtain and claimed what I know – and, it is truly technical stuff. I also learned, thanks to Terry Starbucker, that it is okay to say "I’m not sure; I will ask" and that doesn’t diminish what I do know.

I am glad I had the opportunity to experience CubeLand and I am glad to be back in my lively green home office with my Chief Feline Officer by my side. My task now is to take the best of CubeLand and implement it in my work life at home.

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

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