Wendy Chisholm

Stairs make the building inaccessible, not the wheelchair. Co-author of Universal Design for Web Applications. Strategist for Microsoft. @wendyabc at twitter.

Archive for the ‘reflections’ Category

Towards the light

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In preparation for Burning Man 2013, I printed 100 copies of a book of poetry and short stories that I had written during the previous 10 years. In the last few weeks, I’ve been drafting blog posts to start sharing those poems as well as new ones. I had hoped to finish a poem about tenacity before the GAAD event on Thursday, but depression was the theme of the week and I wasn’t feeling tenacious.

This week’s playlist is called “Tenacity.” It starts with Tenacious D and meanders through geeky, funny songs because when I need to feel more tenacious, I turn to comedy.

I cried at work on Wednesday because I was feeling afraid and deflated. I cried at home on Thursday because Chris Cornell died. I cried at the Space Needle on Friday after visiting the KEXP memorial, listening to Soundgarden, standing in the sun, feeling the warmth and relief of this rainy winter letting go. I cried this morning in bed listening to Chris sing Whitney Houston’s, “I will always love you” and reading that he committed suicide using an exercise band and a carabiner.

Depression lies.”

And I remembered this poem that I wrote 27 December 2012.

Towards the light


The sun shines
  the weight
  pulls me down
  unable to stretch
  unable to grow
  towards the light

  is hibernation
  growing roots
  in winter

Storing up
  for the burst of growth
  in Spring

Preparing the systems

Readying me
for the eyes
  the sun
  the warmth

For joy will be grounded
  in the earth
  as it reaches
  for the sun.


Written by wendy

May 20th, 2017 at 10:14 am

Divine Discontent

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For the last week, I’ve been assimilating the ideas that I gleaned from the mind melds at CSUN. I asked as many people as I could, “How do you do your work?”

I am often in a state of panic with my work, that I’m not working fast enough. Intellectually, I know that to move from point A to point B, I need to walk all of the steps in between. Yet, emotionally, I keep trying to figure out how to fly or jump or transport myself to point B. As someone said last week, this is an “all or nothing” approach that more often than not results in “nothing.”

Many people echoed the same idea in different ways: “small ball,” “baby steps,” “take the long view.” Yet having this patience, walking the steps–not running–feels like giving in to the forces preventing change. However, it is a brilliant strategy that has captioned Hollywood movies, installed captioning systems in movie theaters, and deployed accessible ATMs.

There are many Point Bs ahead and one–employment for people with disabilities–feels dauntingly far off: 79% of people with disabilities in the United States who were older that 16 in 2009 were “not in the labor force.”  (AFB, January 2014)

I’m going to keep reminding myself that the only way to get there is to keep walking and rolling, one brick at a time, until we get to Oz.

Thank you Larry, Lainey, Gail, Dylan, Shawn, Glenda, Elle, Denis, Todd, Billy, Sina, Sarah, Katie, Jim, Karl, Doug and others.

Written by wendy

March 30th, 2014 at 2:41 pm

Posted in musings,reflections

An Ode to Twitter

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(I performed this 24 March 2010 at the CSUN tweetup. Captioned video should be available in the future.)

An Ode to Twitter

A non-structured, non-lyrical ode to twitter…

140 characters







1,000s of people (or more?) talking about #accessibility.

# a 1 1 y

Do you say, “ally?”

We’re talking about access.

We’re building inclusion.

We’re connecting.


To express our views.


To change the world.


To connect with others who are


To connect with others who are


To connect with us who are


To be here tonight who are


To hear, see, feel…

PERCEIVE a world where we are all


To be.

To express.

To connect.

What of those who are not on twitter?

Don’t have internet access?

Don’t have access to a computer?

Some are given a voice on twitter, e.g. @invisiblepeople

…but many are not.

So many voices…

How do we harness the power of these 1,000s (more?) of voices into one large trumpet call for change?


Where’s our Ashton Kutcher with millions of followers?

What’s the loudest way for us to challenge assumptions?

The most effective?

Should we stage twitter protests?

How do we become cohesive?

Can we reclaim or repurpose “disability” into an empowering word?

Can we think of twitter like a parade of thoughts that we inject with inclusion?

I want to recruit you.

What if we were “out” about our abilities?

Would it convince designers that people are more able, more varied than they assume?

Would they realize that they have more connections to a variety of abilities?

Our tribe created the innovations that iPhones and Androids rely on:

Onscreen keyboards,

Word prediction,

Screen magnification,

Speech recognition.

What our tribe does today will make tomorrow’s tools more flexible.

Make tomorrow’s tools…possible?

We rock!

Are we moving towards inclusion, one tweet at a time??

Will tweeting make more restaurants accessible to people who use wheelchairs?

Will tweeting encourage more people to add alt-text to images?

Will tweeting cause future technologies to include accessibility features in the alpha release?

Does tweeting raise awareness of accessibility issues with non-aware twitterers?

If not, why not?

This is my ode to twitter.

My ode to the tribe.

My ode to our connections and our innovations.


Written by wendy

March 25th, 2010 at 3:44 pm

Happy New Year!

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We were in Milwaukee as the surprise guests at a New Year’s Eve party. At 10 to midnight, the hostess turned on Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve.  This was a party of musicians, so even though the t.v. was on the sound was off, allowing the host and hostess to choose the night’s soundtrack.

When Mr. Clark appeared I heard all sorts of comments: “ewww. Dick!” “What’s wrong with him?” “What happened to his teeth?” “Do you think his lip isn’t moving because he’s used botox?” “Time to move on Mr. Clark!” As I look online, I see many similar comments, ala: Dick Clark needs to be gently eased to sidelines.

I really like this response from Marianne:

Grow Up and realize that the elderly and feeble are still alive along side us. They need to be recognized, NOT marginalized. You should feel pride at seeing Dick make his appearance, in light of the place that man holds in American Culture. And it should be a reminder for every old feeble person you see that s/he was once possibly a mover and shaker in some decade past and deserving of respect. And, if you’re lucky, you’ll get to that ripe old age and have your life celebrated; and not told to quietly occupy the out-of-the-way lazyboy in the corner.

In 2006, after Mr. Clark’s first new year’s appearance since his stroke, CNN ran the story Clark outing cheers stroke survivors which included the following:

Hendrix, a former Miss Arizona who lives in Phoenix, echoed a hope common among stroke survivors interviewed: that the public might begin to treat them with the respect and admiration given those who’ve overcome cancer or heart attacks.

“Survivors of those other diseases seem to wear a badge of honor,” said Hendrix. But a stroke, with its obvious impairment, “maybe isn’t a pretty thing to look at. It’s definitely not a sexy disease.”

“So for him to get up on national TV and say: “This is what I am now” — I have nothing but respect for him,” she said.

Keep on rockin’ in the New Year, Mr. Clark!!

Written by wendy

January 5th, 2009 at 10:31 pm

Eating my own dog food

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Yesterday, I presented as part of a social media event and had an awesome time. The other speakers were stimulating and fun.

For the first time, instead of creating my slides in XHTML/javascript (I like Eric Meyer’s S5), I used Open Office Impress. I figured, “why not.” We’re using Open Office for the book and it works pretty well. Plus, I noticed I could export my presentation in tagged PDF. I assumed I would happily and easily generate a tagged PDF and that would be that. So, on I trudged, delivering the file without testing it.

Today, I wanted to publish my slides on my website and on slideshare. So, I opened Acrobat to take a look at the accessibility of the PDF. I knew that the images would not have text equivalents so I was prepared to add those. I was not prepared for the following 4 hours of frustration…which is resulting not in an accessible PDF but in this blog post.

First off, Open Office Impress did not generate a tagged PDF despite me checking the checkbox. boo!

Secondly, when I generated XHTML instead of PDF, I lost all of the formatting and images. boo!

Thirdly, Acrobat only saves about 45 characters worth of each of the descriptions of the images despite giving me a text box that will allow me to enter at least 256 characters (I’m guessing because that’s the limit in the HTML 4.01 spec). boo!

I learned a valuable lesson today: all future decks will start and end in XHTML.

Written by wendy

July 9th, 2008 at 11:52 pm

Posted in experiments,reflections

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