Today in one of my classes a speaker named Katherine Schneider came in to talk to us about the Internet and making it accessible for people with disabilities.
Schneider is a clinical psychologist. She has also been blind since birth.
When I arrived to class, a little late because the shuttle bus was running slower than usual, she was sitting at the front of the room with a golden retriever plopped by her feet.
I snuck behind her and took a seat at the back of the room. There was something about a speaker that didn’t have any visual presentations that made it, surprisingly, more intimate and, even more surprisingly, very gripping.
A subtle smile sat on her face the entire time. Even after she was done speaking and was just sitting in on the rest of our class listening, she was glowing and giggling at all the wannabe professional banter we expressed during class and listening to us outline our experiences with a recent project.
Most of the time her eyes were closed but occasionally she would open them and her eyelids would flutter a few times. Strangely, I found this so beautiful. She made a thing so thoughtless and constant into an infrequent, graceful little moment, both connecting and separating her from normalcy.
She told us that, more than anything, there needs to be more awareness of making sites accessible for those with disabilities.
Little things like adding descriptive “alt text” to photographs on one’s website can make a world of difference. She also added that using this caption to describe a picture as “picture” is not cool. I wanted to make all my alt text tags as descriptive as possible right after she spoke.
“When I was little journalists covered my story,” she said.
Headlines like “Blind Child sees with Fingers!” were written about her; “no I don’t see with my fingers!!” she said.
When she exited the room, I felt so enlightened. Rather than feeling pressured by the speaker to become some crazy decorated, a million-award-winning journalist, I just felt happy.
I was contented by this woman.