Why I’m pledging off quickly Sharing those great images with embedded text on Facebook.

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Most of us have probably done it. We see a great quote or other statement embedded in a photo on Facebook, Google+, or other social networking site. Maybe it’s political, maybe it’s insightful, maybe made us Laugh Out Loud. A quick click of the Share button and all our friends can read it…well, most of them. Maybe we have a friend with poor or no vision. This friend may not be able to join us in our appreciation of this statement. We didn’t intend to exclude them, we just didn’t stop to think about it. We often don’t think about visually disabled people using the web–it’s such a visual experience for us. But with screen-readers and other assistive technology, the internet has opened up the world to visually disabled people, perhaps even more than the internet has opened it up to “the rest of us.”

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But sharing these images is so valuable you might say. I don’t want to give it up.

Well, there is a way to share them and still let everyone read them. Here’s how:

When you hit that Share button, you can add a comment. Take a few minutes to type in the text from the image into the Comment section. Yes, I know this will slow down your sharing, but it may also make you stop and ask yourself, “Is this really important enough to share?” (Come on, face it, you know you probably spend too much time on Facebook, much of it reading these quotes.)

Like most accessibility adaptations, we will all benefit from this (when was the last time you pushed a stroller/cart up a ‘wheelchair’ ramp, or used you butt to push the door opener when your arms were full?). Initally, typing in the comment may take us more time but, as we do it more, our Wall will probably end up less crowded. And, after a while, some will already have the text typed in by the previous person who shared it! Our Shares will also will be ‘higher quality,’ since we’ve already filtered out those not worth spending the time to type in the text.

So, perhaps make this one of your new year’s resolutions.

Oh, and while you’re at it, if it seems amazing, try Snopes to confirm it’s not an ‘urban legend’ (but that’s fodder for another post).

Happy networking,

Lee

California Action Alert on Employment & Disability

Dear Advocates,

AB 1269 is important for Californians with disabilities who want to or do work. If you’re unfamiliar with Medi-Cal’s California Working Disabled Program, please see the following text link that describes the current program. http://www.chiip.org/longdesc/medi-cal_brochure_english.html

AB 1269 adds desperately needed improvements to California’s Medicaid Buy-In Program that were vetoed by the governor two legislative cycles ago because of legal language flaws, and again during the last legislative cycle because of the budget. Advocates have worked closely with the governor’s staff and the state’s fiscal actuaries, and are confident that we have addressed concerns expressed by this administration.

Please let Assemblymember Brownley know that you support her bill as she ushers it through the committee process. It is important to ask people in your personal life and business associates to also send letters of support. Please spread the word.

ACTION ALERT!

Write Letters to Members of the Assembly Committee on Health by April 16, 2009

AB 1269-Fundamental Fairness!

CALIFORNIA WORK GROUP On Work Incentives and Health Care  the CWG

PLEASE SEND TO YOUR COLLEAGUES AND NETWORKS

Dear CWG Participants & AB 1269 Supporters,

We need you, your friends, family, and colleagues to write letters of support by the end of this week!

ACTION STEPS:

1.   Write your letter of support! See our sample letter below that you can edit with your own stories, Assembly contact person, and your personal contact information.

2.   Please send or fax a letter of support to Julia Brownley, the bill’s author attention Irene Ho.

Office of Assembly Member Julia Brownley

Attn: Irene Ho
State Capitol
P.O. Box 942849
Sacramento, CA 94249-0041
Tel: (916) 319-2041
Fax: (916) 319-2141

3.  Send or fax a copy of your letter to Ginny Murphy:

Ginny Murphy
World Institute on Disability
510 16th St. Ste 100
Oakland CA 94612
Ginny@wid.org
Phone: (510) 251-4340
Fax: (510) 763-4109

4.   Forward this email to a friend or colleague who can join us in supporting AB 1269. Consider sending them your letter so they can see why you support the California Working Disabled Program.

Thank you for your action and support! Please contact us if you have any questions. If you need any assistance with this AB 1269 letter of support over the next two days please contact Burns Vick, Policy Consultant, at fburnsvick@sbcglobal.net.

Sincerely,

Bryon MacDonald
Program Director
California Work Incentives Initiative
The World Institute on Disability

Ginny Murphy
Projects Coordinator
California Work Incentives Initiative
World Institute on Disability

Sample letter

“Cut and paste” the following letter into your word processor, then make the needed changes to personalize it:

April ____, 2009

The Honorable Julia Brownley
State Capitol
P.O. Box 942849
Sacramento, CA 94249-0041

Dear Assembly Member Brownley:

YOUR NAME or ORGANIZATION in YOUR CITY is deeply committed to support the improvement of Medi-Cal’s California Working Disabled Program with the features and the fundamental fairness found in your pending legislation AB 1269. ____________A BRIEF EXPLANATION OF WHY YOU SUPPORT AB 1269… ________________________.

Medi-Cal’s California Working Disabled program (CWD) came about so California workers with a disability who have earned income under 250% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) can buy into Medi-Cal by paying an affordable monthly premium. This bill would reform the program to enable more disabled individuals to save their earnings without consequence, and enable them to retain their health coverage and hard-earned savings when changing employment during these hard economic times, and when they receive retirement income.

AB 1269 improvements to the California Working Disabled Program:

  • Allow enrollees who are temporarily unemployed to remain in the program for up to 26 weeks (6 ½ months) during a work transition;
  • Allow enrollees to save their earnings without any limit or ceiling as long as they save them in a separate bank account; and
  • Allow enrollees to stay in the program and work by exempting Social Security disability income that converts to retirement income.

In 1999, California passed legislation (AB 155-Migden) that established the California Working Disabled program. While creation of the California Working Disabled program successfully facilitated the return to work for some workers with a disability, program enrollment rates have been much lower than every state projection since 1999. These long sought, non-controversial improvements, and promotion of them by the State of California, can improve employment outcomes for many more California residents working and living with a significant disability.

Thank you for your leadership.

Sincerely,

YOUR SIGNATURE, PRINTED NAME AND ADDRESS or ORGANIZATION’S INFORMATION


Ginny Murphy
Projects Coordinator
California Work Incentives Initiative
World Institute on Disability
Phone: (510) 251-4340
Fax: (510) 763-4109
Ginny@wid.org

So you want a web site for your business

I have lots of requests from friends, businesses (from ShopInBerkeley.com connections), and work colleagues who ask me about creating web sites. I’ve created quite a few, from the “old days” of HTML code without CSS or Javascripts to current database driven, css rich sites. I have three main words for folks who want a web site these days: Open source and WordPress.

Before I explain why these three words are important, I’ll present a few questions you should ask any web designer who you wish to have design your new or revamped web site.

Questions to ask your web designer

  1. If you go out of business, get hit by a truck, raise your rates, or otherwise are unable to continue maintaining my site, how easy will it be for me or anyone else to figure out the code of my site?
    1. How much documentation will you provide for the code on my site?
    2. Are you holding any keys and/or code that I’ll need later if you decide you no longer want my account (or I decide I no longer want to hire you)?
  2. I’ll want to make some minor changes to my site from time to time. How easy will it be for me to do this (without depending on you or taking a course in web design)?
  3. How much of my budget am I spending on creating the “backend” (the code that creates pages) and how much am I spending on the “look and feel”?
  4. Will visitors be able to “subscribe” to my web site to recieve notices when I post updates? If so, how easy will this be for them?
  5. Is your design accessible to visitors with disabilities who may be using screen readers or other adaptive software?

Answers to these questions from a WordPress designer

  1. If you we decide to discontinue our relationship, any of the thousands of WordPress designers can easily figure out what I’ve done.
    1. WordPress and it’s Themes and Plugins are highly documented already. I’ll give you a few notes about what alterations I’ve done, but even if I don’t it would be easy for any WordPress designer to look at the site and see what I’ve done.
    2. No keys or code. I’ll make you an “administrator” of the site, which will allow you to delete my account if you desire.
  2. Adding to or editing your site is easy. Just log in adn use the WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor. If you can surf the web and use a word processor, you can edit your site.
  3. About 20-30 percent of your budget goes to setting up WordPress and installing a few Plugins, the rest will be used for generating graphics and color themes to create the look and feel you desire.
  4. WordPress is RSS enabled, so anyone with an RSS reader (online web sites or programs on their computer) can subscribe to your site. They don’t have to provide you with their email address, so they don’t have to worry about the security of your email list.
  5. Most WordPress themes comply with accessibility guidelines. I’ll make sure that the ones we use on your site are. And remember, search engines are “blind” to images and can only read text. When you design for disabled access, you’re designing for search engines as well.

A bit of background on Open Source software and WordPress

Open Source software is code written by an open group of people, using special techniques that allow them to find errors, report them to each other, and fix them. This cross-germination of ideas allows for development of new components to the product in addition to fixing the bugs therein. For more details on Open Source, see the Open Source Initiative site or the Wikipedia page on open source.

My favorite software for web sites is WordPress. WordPress started as blog software (well, actually it morphed from b2/cafelog, more evidence of how open source software can grow), but has grown way beyond that. The home page of a WordPress site may look like a traditional “blog”–with the newest post appearing at the top and older ones migrating down and off the page as new ones are added–or it can be a special page. In both cases, all of its web pages can be accessed through “category” links in menus on the side or top.

One of the strengths of WordPress is its use of a database for holding all the content of a web site: all your text and images are stored in this database. If you want to change the layout of your site, these changes are made to “Themes,” and all your old content is instantly converted to the new theme. There are hundreds of pre-packaged themes, but you’ll probably want to start with one and make a few changes to make it look uniquely yours.

In addition to themes, there are hundreds of “Plugins” that allow you to extend WordPress. Plugins may help you post Google maps on your site, post photos from a photo gallery page, optimize your site for visitors using “smartphones,” protect your comments from spam, and much more.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a new web site or web site redesign, print out this page and bring it to your designer. Ask he for her opinion on it. Ask her for her answers to my questions. Ask for her price. Then, if she’s not using an open source, database driven software, find a WordPress designer and ask for a quote from her. My guess is you’ll be quite surprised at how much you can save using WordPress (the city of Albert Lea, MN saved a projected $19,000, having their entire city web site created for $750).

Some WordPress web sites I’ve built

Here’s a few WordPress web sites I’ve built and maintain (other than the one you’re reading now):

You’ll notice some similarity in these web sites (which is good: menus found in the same location makes navigating different sites easier), but also significanlly different color and design themes.

Article on accessibility in WordPress

Here’s a great article on making accessible WordPress themes, including the authors own theme. The article is titled Surprise! Your “semantic, accessible, search engine friendly” WordPress theme is none of the above.

www.bushidodesigns.net/blog/semantic-accessible-seo-friendly-wordpress-theme/

In addition to the theme, the article provides good insite into making a web site/WordPress blog accessible.

I like the theme, but although it’s a bit bare. Adding a bit of color and it looks great.