“Things like the Internet and WordPress can power a website, but they can also empower individuals.”
As a young boy with a permanent disability, life wasn’t easy. I wasn’t able to do all of the things my friends did, I wasn’t treated the same, and I wasn’t taught the same things in school. I was involved with various clinics, centers, and organizations focused on disabled youths, and they determined that I should be encouraged to learn and utilize technology as a way to break down the barriers that existed then, and those that would exist in the future. I remember being the first kid in the neighborhood with a personal computer at both home and school. With various Assistive Technology add-ons, I was able to find an effective way to operate and interact with these computers, and I was quickly learning the ins-and-outs of software and hardware. Skip forward a few years, computers and technology are still huge interests for me, and so I enrolled in a high-school that focused on the web and media. I was instantly drawn to Flash animations as well as web design and development. Even at that age, I knew that web based media was my ticket to achieving personal success. I was considered one of many great talents during my time in high-school, one of my Flash animations even won a small award, which definitely boosted my confidence levels and ambition. Once high-school was complete, I continued my journey with technology and new media by attending a Digital Media Arts program at a well-regarded college. I soon realized that I wasn’t the strongest web developer there, and definitely not the quickest when it came to writing code. In my second semester, I was introduced to WordPress, which was in version 2.5 roughly, and I immediately took a liking to it.
I remember my professor telling the class ”pay attention to WordPress… some of you may actually build careers around it.”, which stuck with me to this day. I spent hours upon hours learning WordPress, and finally, I had a tool that didn’t require me to be an expert developer and it cut my programming time in half. In my final semester I was already building simple WordPress websites for small clients that I acquired through friends, family, and other colleagues.
WordPress gave me the opportunity to succeed, despite my limitations, despite my short-comings, and despite any stereo-types towards those with disabilities.
After graduating from college, I moved around from agency to agency but quickly realized that most companies couldn’t facilitate my accessibility needs, and so I starting freelancing out of my apartment. I built a solid reputation over a short amount of time, I was able to open a small office space, and was able to continue succeeding with WordPress. Fast forward a few years, I now own a company that is dedicated to Web and WordPress development, we have a new office space and we operate as a team of 5. I am an active WordPress community member and most recently active in the Web Accessibility community as well. I have presented various WordPress and Web Accessibility topics at WordCamps and a11yCamps across North America. Lastly, I am a huge Web Accessibility advocate, and I promote the importance of Web Accessibility any opportunity I can.
It’s pretty obvious from the story above that Accessibility and WordPress have had a huge impact on my life, both personally and professionally. As a WordPress and Web Accessibility advocate, I am working with others to help bridge the gap, to help make the Internet and WordPress more accessible for those that may not have the same opportunities as most of us do. I know in my heart that there are disabled individuals still searching for a way to succeed, and I feel that given my own success, I should do whatever it takes to ensure that things are easier for them than it was for me when I started.
Every time we make WordPress more Web Accessible, we open up more ways to empower individuals, no matter what limitations they have.