Category Archives: Accessibility

Global Accessibility Awareness Day

Blue Global Accessibility Awareness Day Logo. Circle around GAAD initials with keyboard on bottom right.

Thursday May 20th, 2021 is the 10th Annual Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), an annual worldwide event that aims to raise awareness about the importance of digital accessibility in an increasingly diverse and inclusive society.

The organization’s web page connects you to some creative work being done by some interesting groups. If you are curious about tools for now and the future, click around.

Everyone knows one or more people whose vision is limited or non-existent. Shut your eyes and think of what they miss when they can’t see your well-designed clever meme.

Here are the most common ways we fail those people who can’t see as well as you do.

Causes of Most Common Accessibility Failures in percent of home pages. Low Contrast Text is 86.3 percent. Missing image alt text is 66 percent. Empty links is 59.9, missing form input labels is 53.8, empty buttons is 28.7 and missing document language is 28 percent.
Top Causes of Failures of Home Page Accessibility

You absolutely don’t have to use any fancy software in order to make sure your message as many people as possible. Here is the very simplest thing you can do. It only takes a few seconds. When you post on any social media or web site, be sure to type the text on the image and write a short but complete description of what is shown.

– Pat Adams

Greta Thunberg has likened her Asperger syndrome to a ‘superpower’

— some Fortune 500 employers appear to agree

‘We need people who think outside the box and who aren’t like everyone else,’ the 16-year-old Swedish teenager said

Greta Thunberg has called her Asperger syndrome a ‘superpower.’

Greta Thunberg is facing attacks over her Asperger’s, but companies are keen to hire people on the autism spectrum.

Thunberg, 16, delivered a withering speech on climate change before the United Nations General Assembly on Monday, shaming world leaders for failing to take action. “How dare you,” she said. “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”

The teen, who has spoken openly about her Asperger’s diagnosis, faced some mockery and personal attacks in response to her speech. One Fox News guest called her “a mentally ill Swedish child,” prompting the network to apologize to Thunberg and denounce the remark as “disgraceful.”

In a recent interview with “CBS This Morning,” Thunberg said that bluntly speaking truth to power and shaming “those who need shaming” had helped drive home her climate-change message. Another asset, she said, was her neurological diagnosis. “I have Asperger’s, I’m on the autism spectrum, so I don’t really care about social codes that way,” she said.

She spoke to the perks of neurodiversity, or the idea that neurological differences are human variations rather than diseases to be cured. “That makes you different; that makes you think differently,” Thunberg said. “Especially in such a big crisis like this one, we need to think outside the box, we need to think outside our current system, we need people who think outside the box and who aren’t like everyone else.”

Read more in the article:

The Access Project. [TAP]

Creating Accessible Computer Controls

The Access Project’s objective is to find, review and test hardware and software tools and equipment specifically to enable control of computer equipment for adults who have computing needs not met by current resources. Tools we choose often follow principals of “universal design” by making access to online and everyday worlds easier (and often more fun) for everyone.

No one gets through life without bruises and cracks. Amazing people live with challenges of broken or uncooperative bodies or minds. Net Learning Center believes that nobody should be considered a “write-off”, as we all have something to contribute. Just like every part in an object like a car, and every thread in a tapestry, is a vital part of the complete and whole item. This is also true within our human family, if we are all connected on this earth.

How DO you control your computer if you can’t move any part of your body?

Think about it! Now, think about this. What if you can’t TALK either? For some people who are quadraplegic, this is true. These people are the “Untalkables”.

The “I Need a word” song by Dave Matthews and Grover for Sesame Street could easily be their theme song.

The “A-Team” is working on ways to help people get the words!

A-Team Project for the “Untalkables” -Adapt the computer to YOU!

Believe it or not, there are a number of tricky tools that can allow you to control a computer with just your very smallest wiggle. If your eyes can focus, you can gaze at a spot on the screen. If you can grip a button, you can click a mouse that moves across the screen highlighting choices for you. Or you can puff on a straw, move your head, even stick out your tongue to push a switch. Human ingenuity is the only limit.

Everything in the world of the Untalkables takes lots of work, lots of time and help from many people, ranging from medical and educational professionals, to therapists, caregivers, family and friends. But official services do have limits. Turning TV sets on and off, playing games, sending email and posting on social media may not be official “activities of daily living”, but they certainly ARE activities that make it worth living!

That’s where the A-Team comes in! Our job is to find tools that help with communication and in that gain control over the computer to open up a small room to the wider world. The Access Project was initiated because we discovered that there were very few fun computer activities available to people who do not have full use of their hands.

Priscilla in her hospital-style bed with purple sheets and pillow. She sports a trach tube to supply oxygen. Behind her bed is A-Team member Kathy holding a black sign with a yin-yang symbol and the words "Get Control".

The “Face” of the A-Team is Priscilla Valdez, who became quadriplegic in 2012, and who inspired the project. For two years she was unable to move anything except perhaps her eyes, but her vision was very hard to assess. She could not talk, although she certainly could communicate with eyes, smile and determined spirit. In her 3rd year of quadriplegia, after many hours of work with a speech therapist, she regained limited use of her voice. But putting together sentences was slow and very tiring. Then, with perhaps another year of mobility and range-of-motion exercises, Priscilla become able to move one hand in a limited way (think “Royal Wave”). This gave hope that she might be able to move and control a mouse. Thus began the A-Team’s testing process.

What have we been up to so far?

As our A-Team official tester, Priscilla has tried out a wide variety of computer access tools and applications. Through a GoFundMe campaign, she has raised money for new equipment and software. The campaign was required because medical insurance funding is capricious for adults with long-time paralysis. We will be posting updates as we go along.

How can you help with the project?

TAP’s pages aim to feature online learning services and classes that are accessible, useful to everyone in a practical sense. We are especially interested in activities that make learning fun and involve the user/student/learner in interacting with what is happening on the screen, not just passively watching or reading. Keep checking back. This is an active area!

Net Learning Center began this project about two years ago. The Access Project was initiated because we discovered that there were very few fun computer activities available to people who do not have full use of their hands. They also had a huge gap to leap to control their computers and the other equipment that must be managed in order to perform what the medical world calls “activities of daily living”.

Photo of the A-Team: Michi, Kathy, Pat and Terry. They are standing in front of an iron fence that shows the brush in the back yard of Priscilla's house. Some of the brush burned during the Woolsey Fire in 2018.
The A-Team


Grants and other funding for improving accessibility for adults is hard to find, and yet the need is always increasing. Your donation can help make a difference. Even more important to us is active involvement in making the world more accessible for all of us. The day will come when we may be the ones who need to HELP to get into a building or fill out an online form.

A typical metal switch on a department store door. It's label reads "Press to Open".
Press to Open – if you have use of your arms…

– Pat Adams

Learn about living a Kintsugi life.

Living a kintsugi life means acknowledging the existence of the break, and making a mend that highlights the wholeness rather than attempting to cover up the break.

We humans tend to make our wounds into part of our identity. Even when we see ourselves as survivors, that role still defines us by the wound. A kintsugi repair becomes an interesting pattern within an identity that is whole, not the glue holding together something that was broken.

“No matter how profoundly and deeply the broken places in our lives change us, part of healing is learning to move past a definition of ourselves that limits us to that broken place. At some point, it has to involve setting ourselves free from that limiting definitons so we can move forward with our golden gifts of healing into a life that is larger than that experience.”

– Kenetha J. Stanton

Wounded warrior

You are not your wounds Posted by Kenetha Stanton on July 24, 2019

Some of the newest mobility tools have the artistic look of kintsugi repairs. If you find examples of adaptive tools you think are beautiful, send them and we will post.

– Pat Adams

Universal Design – Making helpful buildings, without limits.

60 minutes recently told a story about an architect who lost his eyesight after a brain surgery. In an interview with Leslie Stahl, Chris Downey said that losing his eyes expanded his vision.

“Just nine months after going blind, the recession hit and Downey lost his job. Then he got word that a nearby firm was designing a rehabilitation center for veterans with sight loss. They were eager to meet a blind architect. What are the chances?”

Chris Downey said: “It took my disability and turned it upside down. All of a sudden, it defined unique, unusual value that virtually nobody else had to offer.”

He developed a specialty making spaces accessible to the blind. One solution he came up with allowed people who use canes to navigate the four-block long Transbay Transit Center by setting grooves into the concrete running the entire length of the platform. The subtle change from smooth to textured concrete would signal where to turn to get to escalators and exits. He also used this approach on the renovation of a three-story office space for his old training ground, the LightHouse for the Blind.

Downey’s approach exemplifies the concept of “Universal Design”, incorporating features that accommodate people with disabilities but that are just as appealing to everyone else. Practically everyone may have physical limitations during their lifetime. Universal design can help everyone: babies, children, senior citizens, adults carrying heavy packages.

As we begin to build more of the concepts of Universal Design into everyday tools, building owners will not need to add expensive specialize adaptations. For example, if every building was entered either by a flat doorway or by a long sloping ramp, nobody has to deal with steps. This is good for people with wheelchairs, arthritis, oldsters, children, delivery people. No limitations. Happier people.

Watch a brief summary of Chris Downey’s ideas on designing for everyone.

Read the transcript of the 60 Minutes interview with Leslie Stahl:

Or see the whole 60 Minutes segment on Youtube:

– Pat Adams