Pride, Prejudice & Accessibility

It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that this blog must be in want of a classic accessibility check and a Mr. Darcy and Miss Elizabeth Bennett.

Jane Austen’s books are great, but Pride and Prejudice is one of the perfect examples of what is it that constitutes 19th century love. Take Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. They don’t even like each other and it takes several months and an insulting first proposal before they know enough about each other to overcome the pride of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth’s prejudices. I loved this book!

I also love Bookshare and wouldn’t be the reader I am without it, but the web reader’s pronunciations of abbreviations can be irritating. For example, instead of saying Mister Darcy, the web reader says M –  R and pauses like at the end of a sentence then says Darcy. There are 61 chapters in Pride and Prejudice and each has at least 10-30 Mr.’s and Mrs.’s in them. The mispronunciation of abbreviations kind of ruins the flow of the story. This doesn’t happen in every book I read, so I don’t know why sometimes it reads properly and other times the web reader doesn’t.

I sent a note to Bookshare asking if there was a way to have the web reader for Bookshare pronounce abbreviations like Mr. and Mrs. as Mister or Missus. But, there isn’t. So, if you’re looking for a good accessibility project, figure out how web readers can better read abbreviations. It’s 2019, time to figure this out. By the way, I read my draft of this post using Read Aloud in Microsoft Word before copying it to WordPress. Read Aloud reads the abbreviations correctly. Bookshare doesn’t work in Microsoft Edge although it’s supposed to be coming soon. Maybe that will work better?

Hang on a second, weren’t you at an outdoor concert?

Yes at Surly Festival Field. Accessibility was great and I thought that the music was ok. More of my parents’ nostalgia bands than the types of music I like best.

Accessibility report for Surly – get there early to get accessible parking. We got there by 5:30 and gates opened at 5:00 and did get a parking spot. We had to walk about a block and a half from ADA parking to where they were taking tickets. Not sure if they would have let us in at the exit gate which was closer to where we parked. We did exit from there and that was convenient. They had a ramp to a raised platform by the sound booth so were able to see over the crowd of people and didn’t have to drive on uneven ground. Pretty good seats although the platform also filled up pretty quickly with several of us using wheelchairs, a couple knee scooters and others who needed accessible seating. I would definitely go to concerts there again.

Busy week coming up

Can’t wait to see John and Hank Green on Sunday! Anyone who reads my blog knows just how big of a fan I am! I have tickets in the 7th row at the Pantages Theatre. I’m excited that they have wheelchair seating so close. Usually in theaters like this, I end up paying the same as everyone else but the only choice is to sit in the back row. That’s annoying! Especially, if you also have hearing loss like I do!

We’re also going to try to go see Elizabeth Warren at Macalester on Monday. I want to hear from as many presidential candidates as possible to see who I like best.

My brother leaves for college on Thursday… more on this later.

For my web accessibility friends out there, I was trying to find if using the WordPress Tiled Mosaic is accessible. I used the Tiled Mosaic for the grouped images like I have for the concert pictures and pictures above from John and Hank Green events. I just can’t tell if people using screen readers can hear the alt text for the individual images or if I should just add them as individual images. Let me know what you think works best. Thanks!

A couple things

Football/Soccer

My dad and I got last minute tickets and went to Allianz Field to watch Minnesota United FC vs. Houston Dynamo. We won 1-0. It’s great to be able to do more stuff now that I’m in my fourth week after the surgery.

It was too late to purchase parking online (all looked sold out) so we thought we’d see if we could find wheelchair accessible van parking in a lot near the field. It looked as if there were a lot of accessible parking spots available in the lots but since we hadn’t purchased parking online we couldn’t park there. We ended up finding a street spot where I could drop the lift about a block away. So, free parking is always good.

The stadium itself was amazing. We sat close to the Wonderwall fan area – so it was super charged with energy and excitement!

United is my favorite US team and AFC Wimbledon is still my favorite first love. Maybe someday I’ll be able to go see an AFC Wimbledon match in person! Until then, it’s United FC to watch live soccer!Justin in wheelchair looking at the field in Allianz Stadium

Bear that Shines

Guess what? I got an email that said this, this week:

“You have been selected as a 2019 Manitou Days Bear That Shines! Earlier this year we requested nominations of people who lived in our school district who have made an impact in our community, with the goal of recognizing 22 Bears that Shine (one for each day of Manitou Days). Your name was submitted with a description of why you deserved this award.”

So, if you’re in White Bear Lake on June 13th, stop by Marketfest. I, along with the other Bears that Shine, will be recognized at around 7:15 at the Gazebo in downtown. Watch for more info about this on the Manitou Days website.

I am honored that the person who nominated me recognized how I try to make an impact and be a voice for inclusion in my community. Thank you!

Recasting

I’ll be sedated on Thursday to get my casts replaced. Hoping to see my toes again and that they’ll scratch my legs before putting the new casts on! Please, scratch my legs!!! Ever notice how your legs itch even more when thinking about and writing about it?

The Interrupters up close

Amazing concert on Wednesday at the Varsity Theater! Can’t even describe how awesome this concert was! The pictures say it all – this band is energizing and exciting. Justin and dad in front of theater marquis for sold out Interrupters April 3After the last song, the band threw t-shirts, drumsticks, guitar picks, and sheet music out to the crowd. The lead singer, Aimee, saw me and brought me a hat! And I got a hug – after she asked if it was okay to give me a hug! It’s always good to ask!

You’ll never believe this – the manager noticed us and asked if we’d like passes to meet the band after the concert. I still can’t believe it!

We hung out while the crowd left. And then got to meet the band – who by the way are incredibly nice and cool! They didn’t know it, but it’s going to be a rough several months for me after my foot surgery in 3 weeks. This concert and meeting them, is going to make it easier to go through the rough times. Thanks Aimee, Kevin, Justin and Jesse! Never underestimate the impact you have on people who are going through hard times.

Fight like a title holder 
Stand like a champion
Live like a warrior
And never let ’em break you down

Title Holder YouTube video

Finally, the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis was very accessible for me. After getting our tickets sorted out, we went to the reserved spot that was right up front to the left of the stage. We didn’t check out the accessible bathroom so can’t report on that. My chair elevates so I raised it up to standing height and it was amazing to be so close to the stage. The security guys were awesome – gave us water and earplugs and were really nice.

Interrupters on stage

Can’t wait to see the Interrupters again. Maybe Duluth in July??? Hopefully am recovered from surgery by then!

Find out more about the Interrupters and their concert tour on the Interrupters website.

Justin and Kris in concert crowd

Barriers to Inclusion Part 3: Employment

In the 2018 fiscal year, 16 percent of Minnesotans with disabilities who received state services worked in the community alongside people without disabilities.  Chris Serres, Star Tribune, 3/16/19

How is this real? That number needs to be a hell of a lot higher than 16%. I am NOT one of the 16% by the way… although I did get paid to be a keynote speaker a year ago. That was my first and only paid work.

We have to rethink what employment looks like and be open to a variety of work options for people with a wide variety of abilities. For example, I want a part-time job with the option to work from home. I love to write and advocate for disability rights and am good at public speaking. I love testing out assistive technology, applications, and pretty good at using WordPress. I have a lot to offer, it just takes me longer to do what I want to do.

I think it’s time to rethink traditional college and how some of us with disabilities can get our first jobs – especially those of us with severe physical disabilities. I’ve written about this before, but the amount of time and energy for me to take just 1 college course is a lot. One college course means that I have very little time for doing anything else like writing in my blog, getting out in the community, advocating for disability rights, or more importantly going to concerts. I’m not sure it’s the best use of my time and would take me about 8 years to get an Associate’s degree. So, what kid of job am I going to get without a degree? Or do I need to create my own kind of work because when I’m not a college student, I don’t get to do internships or have those other entry points into the writing or communications work I’d like to do.

Smiling Jennie Delisi, Jay Wyant, Kris Schulze and Justin Smith

Let’s all get more creative and figure out how we can connect people with jobs, especially those of us who aren’t following traditional paths.

Read the article Minnesotans with disabilities fight barriers to inclusion, unfilled promises by Chris Serres. Really, read it right now! And share with all of your friends, family and random strangers!

And read the first two parts of my Barriers to Inclusion blog post week. Really, read them right now! And share with all of your friends, family and random strangers!

Barriers to Inclusion Part 1: Inclusion

Barriers to Inclusion Part 2: Caregivers

Here are a couple of  posts from a younger me related to college and work:

20

Inclusion in Action

Random Thoughts

Justin in wheelchair with movie lights, 2 men looking at him with video camera

 

The scary part of editing

Why did I write this book? It seemed like a good idea at the time I started writing, but now that I am editing, let us just say that there are moments when I feel like the book should be thrown into the garbage can and then the garbage can should be thrown into the center of an ocean. Or maybe just hit delete.

I like the character of my narrator and love the idea imagining what my life might be like if I didn’t have a disability and happened to be a vigilante. In my book, I can go anywhere, be anyone, do so many things that I can’t do in my real life. I can’t just hop on a plane and go to England or Paris or Egypt or Italy. In fact, I’m not able to fly anywhere right now because I don’t have a good way to bring along the equipment I need or sit in an airplane seat since there are no shoulder harnesses to help hold my body up.  And, there are places that would be cool to go to that just aren’t very accessible if you use a power wheelchair. Any travelling means lots of research to figure out if places will be accessible enough.

Also, in my story, my characters just talk effortlessly and don’t need to use a communication device. I am thankful for my communication device so I can communicate my own thoughts and ideas. It’s also fun to imagine if people could just understand my voice without it taking so long to type out everything I want to say.

Through my characters, I get to imagine a different reality.

So, back to editing. It is making me think about life.

p.s. It was actually easier to travel when I was younger because I had a seating system that could strap into a plane seat, wheelchair was less complicated to fix if it got broken,  and easier to carry me or my chair to inaccessible places. Here are some of our more memorable family vacations to Washington D.C., Florida, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, and Toronto. I get a do-over to D.C. because that was the year I got the flu after the first day and spent the rest of the trip sick in the hotel room!

Justin, dad and brother at Santa Monica End of the Trail sign11-year old Justin with younger brother and dad, White House in backgroundJustin and dad with group of people on float raftJustin as a boy at top of board walk ramp with sandy beach and oceanJustin in front of Moose statue012375ef8a70833ae3e8b4e732d6fba202baa9f152

Wheels in Winter

Unfortunately, AFC Wimbledon did not win today meaning that they’re not going to the quarter finals of the FA Cup. Ahhhh…

My good news story for the day is even though we’ve had a ton of snow over the past couple weeks, downtown Minneapolis near The Local had clear sidewalks and curb cuts. It’s usually kind of nerve wracking to go downtown after lots of snow, because it’s hard to find street parking spots where we can drop my wheelchair lift. And, it can be really hard to move around if there’s a bunch of snow piled up on sidewalks and blocking curb cuts. For example, last year when I went to a concert, I got stuck trying to get back to my van because the snow was piling up. So, great job City of Minneapolis and businesses near The Local! I had no problems getting from my van to my soccer/football match on time with no drama.

Breakfast at The Local was awesome! You have to try the French Toast Bites! Justin in his wheelchair and dad crossing street

It was really nice having the Minneapolis experience this weekend, because just a week ago, was this example closer to home. Check out the push button to open the automatic door on this building. Don’t think any wheelchair can get close enough to reach that one.
Justin in wheelchair outside door with pile of snow in front of accessible push button

Other stuff coming up this week:

  • Disability Day at the Capitol is on Tuesday, 2/19/2019! I’ll be there making my voice heard for disability rights!
  • Friday is my follow up with the orthopedic ankle/foot specialist and hope to figure out what to do with my painful big toe.

2018, see ya

3 things I will always remember

  1. Door knocking for Ami Wazlawic – my new State Representative! I think I liked that even more than being a delegate at the State Convention. I think the parties need to think about how they’re endorsing candidates so that more people can be involved in the process.Ami Wazlawic and Justin Smith smilingKris and Justin smiling
  2. Spoke at Charting the C’s Conference – a lot of work but felt amazing to be the keynote speaker and to present in a couple sessions with my mom, Jennie Delisi and Kim Wee. It’s awesome to have the opportunities to share my experience with such amazing people! Justin with 2 womenJustin smiling with audience seated at tables in background
  3. Writing my unfinished first draft of my book and my blog – I even moved my blog to WordPress which I’ve found very accessible and easy to use. To write is to be free.Justin looking at computer

Read more posts about my favorite 2018 things

Volunteering and participating in political process

VOTE on 11/6 if you haven’t already

Midterms on Nov 6: Clear choice for me in Minnesota

Midterms Part 1: People with Disabilities Vote!

Why it matters

Vote! My letter to the editor

Adjournment

Ready to convene

Show Up and Dance with Me!

Charting the Cs Conference

I’m here and stuff

Video blog for my latest update

Writing

Writing with WordQ (NO POLITICS, really!)

Happy summer

Anyone else have this problem?