I was instantly blinded from a gunshot wound in 1994, when I was fourteen years old. Prior to this, I had never really considered what it would be like to have a disability; afterwards, it was a fact of life. Time went on though, and eventually I became the person I am today. It wasn’t as simple as that of course, but nothing in life really is. As I wrote in a poem once: ‘The hammering of experience on the anvil of our lives as the forging of our spirit takes place’, which I still feel has a ring of truth to it.
I quickly discovered that being disabled and having a disability are two different concepts. Being disabled means that I am not able, which I don’t see the point in identifying with. Having a disability on the other hand, is a statement of fact, and simply means that there are conditions I must live with, as all people do.
When I was in college, many of my course materials were technology based. I discovered that many of these materials weren’t accessible to people with disabilities however, which was a big problem for me. This is when I became interested in the integration of Accessibility within technology, mainly out of self preservation , so I could keep up with the pace of my classmates.
I went to work for an internet startup in the early 2000’s as an intern, to get my feet wet in the technology field. This was an important time for me. I realized then, that the internet would play a critical role in the future for all people in countless ways. This was especially true for people with disabilities, since it would provide a virtual portal for all things, including academic research and materials, employment, shopping, banking and financing, news, entertainment, medical services, socialization, and everything else. In short, web technologies would become the primary interface for people with disabilities to interact with the world, which was very exciting.
By the mid 2000’s, it became clear that the nature of web technologies was changing from a static model to an interactive model, and the use of interactive web applications began to spread and transform the web into what it is today. It also became obvious that the vast majority of these applications were not accessible to people with disabilities. About the same time, international organizations such as the W3C were working to introduce accessible standards for development, but these guidelines were only marginally affective, since complex interactive behaviors were too diverse to define in general terms.
I started studying web development in earnest at this point. My reason being, that 99% of all accessibility issues within web technologies occur on the front end, so I had to learn how to build front end user interface designs to understand how to make them accessible. After much trial and error, I developed a methodology for designing fully accessible interactive web components without sight, based on geometry.
In the late 2000’s, I realized that the Technology field was missing a critical piece to ensure future sustainability. Web technologies were being designed and developed by engineers who had never learned about Accessibility. The reason for this was simple, the concept of Accessibility for interactive web design had never been clearly defined as a programming discipline. This meant that millions of engineers were continuing to be educated in universities around the world with little to no understanding of Accessibility, causing an explosion of inaccurate and inaccessible web development practices to proliferate within all industries across the web.
So, I decided to quantify Accessibility as a programming discipline for engineers. I built an Application Programming Interface called AccDC (Accelerated Dynamic Content), which automates the accessibility of dynamic processes for web technologies. I then founded the company WhatSock, and built the website WhatSock.com to host AccDC as a free resource for international businesses, organizations, and universities wishing to incorporate Accessible Innovation within future web technologies.
Hopefully someday this will make a positive difference in people’s lives.
It would be great to connect with other fellows to share ideas. I’ve always been interested in technology, science, physics, politics, sociology, history, literature, poetry, travelling, music, and whatever else sounds interesting.
Also, if there is anything I can do to help other fellows with their projects, I’d be happy to.