Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt

Motivational Speaker

“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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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 chai tea latte. Thanks kindly.

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Celebrating Buddy: Four Months in His Forever Home

Filed under: Motivation — by Glenda at 4:27 pm on Monday, January 27, 2014

Glenda and Buddy looking directly into the camera and smiling

Four months ago today, Darrell and I welcomed a grey ball of energy into our home. It was love at first sight (of course!)

Buddy (aka Bud, Budmeister and Budweiser) has grown way too fast. He’d awake from a nap and seemed like he had grown yet again. He’s now a sturdy 9-10lb kitty; our stocky, muscular linebacker who is continually into everything, except when he is asleep.

There have been plant mishaps. Except for one spider baby that remains in ICU, all of the spider plants have been annihilated with potting soil scattered everywhere.

Buddy sprawled out on my desk amidst the potting soil mess.

The 6-foot fig tree Robert Plant received an unplanned pot upgrade when he and Buddy tangoed and his terra cotta pot smashed. His new pot is plastic with a layer of pie plates and sticky tape to keep the Budmeister from digging in the soil.

The fig tree Robert Plant

(That space atop the wall above Robert…yeah, Buddy gets up there too, particularly when Darrell and I are in the kitchen and he has been removed from the counter too many times. Bud just likes being wherever his people are.)

In addition to being part Russian Blue, he is also part Maine Coon – indicated by his large paws and his love of water. Keeping him off of the kitchen counter would be much easier if there wasn’t a sink.

Buddy  playing in the kitchen sink.

At times I am convinced Buddy is channelling his big sister Faith, who I dearly miss every day.

Two photos side-by-side: the first of me cuddling Faith, the second of me cuddling Buddy in a somewhat similar pose

Buddy has not replaced Faith; no one ever will and she will remain in my heart. My baby forever.

I am beginning to learn Buddy-ese and how he communicates (a little less with his sharp teeth would be great). We have fun playing with his wand toy in the living room and the mice in the bed. When I am working, he is either on my desk or atop my bookcase; never too far. He still sleeps at the foot of the bed; hopefully that will change and he will cuddle more. He definitely knows how, particularly when he is hungry in the morning and he works his cuddly, affectionate self.

I am grateful that Buddy found his way to Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue (VOKRA) and then to me. I am convinced the Universe was holding onto him for me until his forever home was ready.

I am looking forward to getting to know you better and to enjoying our time together. I am glad you are home, forever, Buddy!

A close up of Buddy's face while he sleeps.

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

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Letter to Santa 2013

Filed under: General — by Glenda at 9:27 pm on Monday, December 23, 2013

Three candles burning in the windowDear Santa,

2013 has been a tough year for myself and several of my friends: many of us experienced heartbreaking losses, others dealt with health issues, while other friends faced disappointment and trying circumstances.

I would like to ask that my friends, near and far, receive healing and happiness.

Let 2014 be filled with hope, health and happiness. Thank you.

Wishing you and the reindeer a safe trip. Merry Christmas!

With love from, 
Glenda

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From Speech Impairment to Motivational Speaker: How I Create My Talking PowerPoint Presentations

Filed under: Motivation — by Glenda at 3:16 pm on Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Glenda presenting at the Cerebral Palsy Association's AGM

People are often puzzled by how I can be a motivational speaker when I have such a pronounced speech impairment. A fair puzzlement, indeed.

My career choice is largely thanks to technology. Because of technology, I am able to convert text into synthesized speech, which I then embed into my PowerPoint presentation that also has scrolling captions and images.

However, the process is not for the faint of heart or technophobe. For the technophile who likes an ingenious mashup, here is a behind-the-scene-look at how I created my most recent PowerPoint presentation “Go Beyond: Stare Your Fear in the Face and Go for It!”

Writing and Editing

The process begins with writing my presentation in Microsoft Word. Typing with only my left thumb is slow; using the WordQ software for word prediction and completion saves me keystrokes.

However, when I am in my writing groove, I either keep typing and lose the benefit of having word prediction or I constantly look up at the word prediction box on my computer screen and lose the flow of words.

Here’s where using my original iPad with the free (yet no longer available) DisplayLink app as a second computer screen comes in handy. I drag the word prediction box over to the second screen and place the iPad on my lap, within the same view as my keyboard, which makes writing a little more comfortable.

Word prediction box on iPad on my lap

Time: 20.75 hours

Chunking Text

The scrolling captions, for the benefit of audience members who are hearing impaired, are actually text boxes stacked above each PowerPoint slide. Motion paths (the green and red arrows in the image below) move the captions down to along the top of the slide when I hit the Space Bar while presenting. Each slide has 15 captions; an arbitrary number that can easily be decreased on a slide, but not easily increased.

A PowerPoint slide with caption boxes stacked above

Each caption holds approximately a line and a half of text from Microsoft Word.

Once I have written my presentation, I break the text into slides and captions. Captions become identified by the format Slide X-Y – where X is the slide number and Y the caption number – which is important in later steps.

My written script divided into slides and captions

Some slides end up having less than 15 captions and some captions are short depending on natural breaks in the content and where I want slightly longer pauses. This is one of the few ways I can control the speed of delivery.

Time: 2.5 hours

Copying the Captions

At this point, my ever-patient husband Darrell copies the captions from Word and pastes into the corresponding the caption box in PowerPoint. He also saves each caption as a separate text file, using the structure Slide X-Y as the filename.

Time: 4.33 hours

Kate-izing the Text

Next comes converting the text into speech with the software TextAloud and the synthesized voice known as Kate. One by one, I open each text file and listen to how Kate reads it. Sometimes some tweaking of the pronunciation is necessary; for example, is “read” meant to be spoken as “reed” or “red” in that instance?

Screenshot of TextAloud software

Once saving it as a WAV file (the only option compatible with PowerPoint), I link the audio file with the appropriate caption via the Animation Panel in PowerPoint. Here’s where the filename structure Slide X-Y comes in handy.

Animation Effects dialog box in PowerPoint

Time: 5.25 hours

Creating, Adding and Layering images

For the most part, I use my own images rather than stock ones in my presentations. Finding them and then cropping and adding arrows or such (as needed) takes time, albeit fun.

The tricky part is the layering of the images. The slide below has four images layered upon one another, plus text boxes and arrows to highlight details. All of these are inserted between the appearance of the captions via the Animation Pane on the right.

Slide with captions and open Animation Pane

Getting the order and the timing right for all of these moving bits is when I reach for the chocolate; the darker, the better.

Time: 17.25 hours

Testing, Tweaking and Practicing

Now that the presentation is built, I can see how it looks and sounds as a whole. I make revisions, adjustments and corrections as needed. Changing one word means redoing the audio file, editing the caption and re-linking the audio file to the caption. It all takes time, but it is worth it in the end.

With this one presentation, I ran out of time before I was 100% happy with the end product. No one knew except me.

Time: 3 hours

After 53.08 hours, 16 slides, 163 audio files, 163 captions, 163 motion paths, 38 images and numerous arrows, text boxes and accessories, I have a 30 minute presentation. Whatever it takes to get the job done!

Here is a brief clip from “Go Beyond: Stare Your Fear in the Face and Go for It!”:

(Transcript is available here.)

To have me share the entire presentation with your group, your organization or at your event, please contact me.

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

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