An Honest Query

People ask me every now and again when or if I’ll ever get guide-dogs.org going since it’s only been, oh, forever. The domain actually expires next year and I’m quite doubtful I’ll renew it. This is mostly because I’m still not sure what exactly it should be as a site. I know what it could be, but I don’t really have a good plan for how to start it to grow into that. And because of that I’ve more or less lost interest in the idea. I also am not as confident there is enough interest as a whole on other people’s part to justify the work I would put into it.

Assistance Dog Blog Carnival (#TheADBC)Then there’s the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival, which over the last year seems to have run out of steam. I have a few theories as to why that is, but I quite honestly am not sure what the problem is. When I hosted in May I extended the submission period twice because there were almost no participants and this current edition seems to be suffering from a similar issue.1

I’m aware that there are many people who used to regularly participate in the Carnival and haven’t in several rounds and that includes myself. Of course, I’m just one person amongst an entire community of participants and my issue is not specific to the Carnival itself and has been a lack of desire and inspiration to blog in general.

When Brooke and I took over handling the Carnival it was in part to help it grow again and we’ve brainstormed a few things that we hope will accomplish this. However, we could certainly use your input. We really want to know what we can do to make the ADBC a success. We want people to be interested in participating and we want to know that news is being spread about the current calls for submissions and/or editions.

Thoughts? Comments? Crickets?

  1. Presently, there isn’t a single submission.

Penguins!

Seemingly out of nowhere, I have a cold. Let me tell you, it takes a long time to do anything when you have to stop every minute or so to blow your nose. Especially when it’s baking and decorating cupcakes because that requires the extra step of hand-washing before getting back into the project. Anyway, my snot-filled head aside, yesterday after three trips to the grocery store, I finally started my holiday baking. Today, I made these:

These little penguins will be joined shortly by yet more cupcakes — including noms for the shepherd who is currently nosing her head under my arm. For now I have presents to wrap and box up for tomorrow’s post.

Unrelated, remember how I moved my site back to my web server for the umpteenth time and subsequently broke most of the images here? Well, as of yesterday they’re all fixed!1 Yes, you read that correctly. It took me almost this entire year. I didn’t work on this every single day, but it was a very long process and it was possibly one of the most tedious tasks I have ever voluntarily undertaken.

There are, however, still a few related tasks to this that I haven’t yet finished. One is setting up a hub for the galleries I’ve created. I have a gallery that isn’t fully alt-tagged and another that isn’t organized or alt-tagged yet. And as I want to create a page for each of my guide dogs, I also have galleries to set up for them.2 Now that the brunt of the tedious work is behind me, though, I am hopeful that this all won’t take yet another year to finish. Especially because I have other sites I want to work on. Like maybe this one. *ahem*

EDIT: Wouldn’t it just be that in the same post that I proclaim all the images across the site are fixed the images IN THE POST are broken. *facepalms* Anyway, after some minor plugin tweaking, I believe everything is working as intended. Sorry about that, guys.

  1. Cue barrage of emails/comments alerting me to all the images I missed that are still broken. *groans*
  2. Well, Dolly’s is set up, but there’s no actual page yet.

Addendum

I rambled so nonsensically yesterday that half of what I intended to ramble about didn’t get mentioned. I’ll likely do the same today because while I’m far calmer I’m still relentlessly neurotic about that thing I can’t talk about. Also, I am cryptic.

Anyway, the biggest thing I didn’t mention was this article on the Health and Wellness blog at The New York Times about EPI. I am so thrilled that this article has seen the light of day because it is really big exposure for EPI. I can’t stress enough how important it is to spread awareness of EPI because that lack itself is one of the largest hurdles to deal with. And even among those that are familiar with the condition, it’s still one that is mostly associated with German shepherds, however, it is not exclusive to the GSD or even just to dogs!

Yara and me lying in the grass togetherI sincerely hope you take the time to read the article, but even more I’d appreciate it if you would share the link with others and help increase awareness of EPI. And, if you’re in a particularly generous mood, there are a bunch of fine products you can purchase that will benefit EPI research and the campaign to spread awareness, including, but not limited to the 2013 calendars which features this lovely photo by Red Cottage Photography. (Thanks again, Mike!)

Speaking of guide dogs, I also neglected to mention my sort-of-kind-of resolution for next year to really get guide-dogs.org off the ground. I know I’ve been saying that for, well, awhile, but in my defense I need to eat and so unfortunately things that actually help with that need took priority. Also, there was that whole pain issue. But I still have everyone’s contact information who voiced any interest in helping and I fully intend to pester those people relentlessly. Along with anyone else who wants to help out!

Oh, and I also totally forgot about the pain stuff. Well, honestly, there’s not too much to report. My new doctor remains awesome and she is in total agreement with me about not prescribing drugs with crazy side-effects just on the off chance they might help. Unfortunately, she’s exhausted any ideas beyond that and so has referred me to a rheumatologist. My appointment isn’t until after the New Year, but frankly at this point waiting is the least of my issues. As far as I’m concerned it may well be fibromyalgia and everything we’re doing is pointless because there really isn’t anything that can be done. But I’m relieved that my new doctor is on board with me and isn’t taking that diagnosis as the ultimate answer. The stiffness in my fingers is what concerns her the most, which was something my previous doctor didn’t seem to think was much of an issue at all. Personally, I’m really fond of the ability to use my hands and those few weeks where I couldn’t even bend my fingers to hold a coffee cup were almost worse than the few weeks I was in so much pain I couldn’t move.

WordPress Accessibility

EDIT: Graham Armfield replied to my comment and explained his why he is specifically advocating using the Trac system. Essentially, it seems to be the only thing that is being paid attention to. I’ll be hunting through the tickets this morning and seeing what I can add. I still maintain that Trac shouldn’t be abused with needless submissions, but I can’t argue with adding worthwhile tickets, etc.

I’ve been posting quite a bit lately about WP and accessibility because of my work on guide-dogs.org. I’ve been using WP since 2004 and I’ve been quite active in the WP community for many years now. I’m not just prattling on here about things; I work very hard to make the WP developers and the folks at Automattic aware of the needs people with disabilities have to use WP with the same ease as any other user.

In my opinion, the admin panel is the thing that needs to be addressed because anything on the front-end is more dependent on themes and plugins. The admin panel has steadily become a mess for those of us that rely on screen readers due to the larger reliance on AJAX menus. Using the admin panel without issue shouldn’t require the use of plugins or hacks and something akin to the widget screen’s “accessibility mode” would be ideal, especially in the custom menu screen and the theme switcher. Also, I want to have an ability to disable the visual editor as a default (like it used to be a few versions ago) and not solely by each user because it is the number one most inaccessible feature in the admin panel. I’m sure there are a few other things that I can list, but my point is that these are things I’ve tried to make the developers aware of and if you feel the same way or have other thoughts on this matter you should be doing the same.

Today on Twitter I saw a link to this blog post and it really bothers me. I left a comment there about my qualms, but it’s currently in the mod queue so I’m going to repeat myself a bit here. I don’t like the idea of flooding Trac. I don’t think that’s what the author is necessarily implying, but it’s how I take the statement about submitting tickets. Trac is a great system to help monitor progress on a project, submit bug reports and alert the developers to any security threats. It is not a means of alerting them to every wish that a user might have — regardless of whether they are a person with a disability or not.

It’s fine and well if there really is an accessibility issue you might be having with WP that hinders some ability to do something. It’s why I contacted Support straight away when I noticed the issue with the comment forms. But if you want to help with making WP more accessible and you want to alert the developers about this there are other venues to do that!

  1. There’s the forums, which are incredibly active and are frequented by every type of WP user from core developers to Automattic staff. There’s even an entire section solely devoted to requests and feedback on WordPress!
  2. There’s the ideas section where you can submit a proposal for an idea you have for WordPress and also vote for other ideas, including a currently active one regarding WP accessibility.
  3. There’s the make.wordpress.org blog, which includes a section on accessibility. There’s also a very active section on the admin panel and others regarding plugin and theme development.
  4. And, lastly, if you use IRC, there’s an IRC channel for discussions on WordPress topics on the IRC FreeNode Server at #wordpress. I haven’t personally been in this chat in something like 6 years, but I remember it as a very knowledgeable and helpful group.

Please don’t flood Trac, though. If you really do have something to add or want to bring attention to, I fully support you submitting a ticket but don’t needlessly flood the system. It is not going to help the cause towards accessibility if we abuse Trac. It’s only going to frustrate people who are sifting through the tickets and make all of us look bad, which will not be helpful to anyone that genuinely needs a more accessible WordPress.

On the Negatives of guide-dogs.org

In a lot of ways I’m very much the person I was back in high school when I’m interacting with people across the Internet. I do my best to not draw attention to myself and I stick to the people I know and are nice to me. As a greater entity, the Internet itself is much like high school. People are immature and downright mean and they target people to assert their superiority.

Case in point, twice in the last year I have been attacked for disseminating information, once was on an email group and the other was a message board. Yes, this happens all the time. Yes, these aren’t even the first times. But I sort of fell out of habit with both of these means of communication, opting instead to focus on my own website and other social networks as a means of interacting with people. I guess I felt that things might have changed while I ignored these other venues. It certainly seemed that everyone I knew could readily bring up a story where such-and-such a thing happened because they said something that was blown out of proportion or taken out of context or just reacted to badly. You would think that with so much negativity that something would be done, right?

What’s interesting to me is that I’ve only ever experienced this on assistance dog groups. Not to say that flaming and attacking don’t happen all over the Internet, but that I’ve only had this level of personal abuse in such venues related to assistance dogs. Maybe this is why something akin to guide-dogs.org doesn’t exist yet. Would it have turned into an unwelcome place where people didn’t feel comfortable expressing themselves? Or perhaps it would have become militant and censored. It actually makes me ill thinking about it?

I have a good many reasons why this site hasn’t gotten off the ground. Mostly it’s been lack of time, but there is a very prominent reason that I have expressly not discussed in public because I’m not entirely sure it is not still or will not be a Huge Problem. Becoming aware of this potential issue was essentially what killed this project last year when I had brought it up before. I wasn’t so much scared of the ramifications, but I was literally depressed that it was an issue at all and just lost any motivation to continue working on the site. I’ve heard nothing about this specific issue in roughly a year so I have no idea what will come of it. But I decided that I no longer cared if it was going to affect me and if it did I would deal with it to the best of my abilities. My hope is that if it does crop up there will be enough solid evidence of what guide-dogs.org is and how beneficial it might be that the whole situation will burn itself out. We shall see.

But now I’m terrified that the site itself will just be another in a long list of places people won’t want to visit. I don’t know how to keep it from becoming a nightmare of antagonism or even worse. I mean, I intend to be very upfront about attacking/flaming not being tolerated, but I’m not about to sit around and censor each and every interaction that people have. It’s not my place and I don’t believe it should be. However, no one should ever feel the way that I do right now. I won’t tolerate that either.

I can’t help but think that such behavior is almost part-and-parcel of such virtual gathering places. What does that speak to how we as people with disabilities partnered with assistance dogs must be perceived by others? We can’t even be civil on the Internet to each other!

I’m just very sad right now.