I was fortunate to come to work at CNIB in December of 2011. Having worked in digital marketing for some years prior to that, I thought I had a fair handle on web design, usability and most things related to the net. I’d like to say that I knew a lot about web accessibility, but that would be untrue. What I had then and what I continue to have is a deep desire to learn everything I can and do something with my working life that can serve to improve the lives of others. When I started at CNIB, I dove into the world of adaptive technology, accessible web design, content considerations, what users need from a universal perspective, what developers need to know, different evaluation tools for web accessibility, implications of rich media, and a bunch of other standards based and regulatory stuff.
I have come to know a whole community of impassioned, supportive, positive and wise members of the accessibility community. But the people that have made the biggest impact on me are the people with vision loss that I know, in particular a few of the blind people I work closely with. They’ve taught me so much about courage, facing challenges with dignity, grace, humour and a limitless desire to make things better. I’m grateful and blessed to be at CNIB and continually inspired by these and many other people.
“What’s this all about John?” Well it’s about adaptive technology, dear friends, and about how my life changed today, just liked it changed when I became Single Sided Deaf (SSD). To recap: I had surgery to remove a 5.5cm benign skull base tumour called an Acoustic Neuroma in 2005. The required surgical approach was through my inner ear, and I came out of the surgery deaf on that side. It was a better than expected outcome; the hearing had to be sacrificed in order to remove the tumour, there was no other choice. Dr. Chen and his team at Sunnybrook are amazing and they did an incredible job, I am forever in their debt.
I recovered quickly and am happy. But coupled with the moderate hearing loss I have as a result of decades of playing music, the SSD presented a challenge. Because of my willingness to get used to my new normal and what I saw as limitations of the technology at the time, I was determined to deal with it naturally and I actually did pretty well. Thus began my campaign of lip-reading, strategic seating in meetings and in restaurants, "pardon me, excuse me, what was that, huh, eh, say again, could you repeat that" and answering "how are you?" with a reply about the weather. My ability to communicate was stilted. Quick banter, witty repartee and tight conversations in small groups would quickly lose me and I love people and conversation and community. I didn't realize how much I was missing.