Friday I got signed up for the Open Air Rally at Knowbility an organization here in Austin that promotes accessible design.
In the next couple of months, I will work with a group of experts on accessibility issues including web designers, programmers and marketers to improve my website. I will be matched with a team of experts who will volunteer their time to help me develop my message and improve the accessibility of my website so that people with all kinds of disabilities as well as people with out disabilities can read it better.
At the end of the process, there will be a competition to see who’s website is the best with respect to a set list of accessibility criteria.
I am really excited for 3 reasons:
1) I know that I wouldn’t have been able to read my current website until years after my injury. I have visual and cognitive and processing deficits. I want others with my issues, and with other issues, to be able to read my website, if they want to.
2) One of the people who founded the Open Air Rally with Sharron Rush at Knowbility was Dr John Slatin. Dr Slatin led what was then-called The Office of Technology and Learning at the University of Texas. Dr Slatin found a place in his office for me after I finished speech and language therapy rehabilitation at St David’s Hospital. He was a tremendous mentor of mine. He provided the vision and direction for my post-injury speaking engagements. He helped me understand the need for more and better information on cognitive deficits from his point of view as someone interested in accessibility, learning and technology.
My first post-injury speech was to John’s undergraduate class on improving the accessibility of the web. I spoke about my cognitive deficits at that time, and the difficulties I had with using the computer and what had helped. That speech was the first of many on what my cognitive issues were, how they were changing and how the computer could help me. After the speech, John told me that he could see my economics training in my descriptions of my brain. It made me so happy to know that my economics was still in my brain somewhere and that I could continue to develop that skill now that I knew it was there! I wanted so desperately to be reconnected with my training in economics which I loved.
When I knew John, he had had to learn to compensate for adult-onset blindness and he worked hard to increase accessibility for UT students. Sadly John passed away from Leukemia after we left Austin for Washington, DC.
For me, connecting with Knowbility and entering the Open Air Rally are steps in honoring how important John’s mentoring has been in my life. I know it would mean alot to John, if he were still alive and could see how things he began years ago are helping me now, and how the work will help others with cognitive and visual disabilities.
3) The mission for my blog has evolved and changed since I started writing it over a year ago. My original idea was to develop a community, but its primary focus has evolved to be mostly the blog. Because the mission has changed, the current website is not the best for my mission. In technical terms, the User Experience (UX) design is bad for everyone. Bad UX design is frustrating and bad for people without disabilities, and can be exponentially more frustrating for people with disabilities. I am glad we can finally take steps to ameliorate the frustration that my current website currently creates. We had to start somewhere, and I am ready to take the next step, with such dedicated help.
And lastly, I am hoping I will learn a lot compensatory strategies for my computer use in the process of working on improving my website with people who are knowledgeable about accessibility issues.
Here’s the link about the Open Air Competition through Knowbility: