Saturday, May 18, 2013


The meaning of life, the universe and everything still eludes me, but it is perhaps a cosmic joke that I had my strokes on the 11th, not on the 18th. If I had them a bit later, then I could tidily package a monthly update with this birthday one. Would it have killed me to wait a week? (Let me answer that: probably.)

It's weird to be turning 42 when I feel like I should be only 41. I remember my last birthday, and the first year of recovery, but perhaps because I spent almost a year somewhere other than my home, that year feels somehow unreal. Robert McCrum's book about his stroke is called "My Year Off," and I get it; it feels like that year didn't happen, while it so evidently did. There it is, though: I'm a year older, which makes me 42. 

Things continue to improve. It's slow, but really only to an adult mind. A friend had a son within a few weeks of my strokes; he's a toddler now. It's taken him this long to get his muscles sorted enough that he can sustain bipedal balance with his arms outstretched and occasionally falling over and bumping in to things. I'm at least on par with that, if not ahead. I recently met a 2-year-old, and he was clumsy with his food (and rather shy but with a delightfully impish mien), much as I am still.

One difference between me and infants is that we perceive time differently: I'm more aware of it (although that will change in a few years). Another is that children are driven to grow up by their biology. Consciously or not, they see what adult bodies are capable of, and work on being able to do the same things. They want to learn how to be dextrous enough to do buttons up easily.

For me, though, there's less of an implicit imperative. I have to want to improve as well as put in the hours of work or I'll will stay more or less the same. One of the terrors of the disability insurance process is that it says to the disabled person "this is what life is now". It becomes easy to forget but that it is possible and that it is necessary to recover.

Anyone reading this blog will know that I want to recover, but if I forget that, then I'm all right. I have an income. It is quite possible for me to be comfortable, and stay comfortable until I die if I do not improve. That is the trap. There is no counseling associations with disability insurance: nothing to encourage you to recover, merely a date for reassessment. It would be easiest not to work hard, not to improve substantially, to stay more or less the same, and in a year's time get paid again.

I am happy to say that once again I am rejecting the alternative. It has been a difficult start to this year, or even a difficult six months, but that will not stop me. I am going to get better. Since that means doing the hard work, I am going to do the hard work. The Social Security benefit I received gives me the opportunity to recover. An opportunity I would not have if I was trying and failing to work.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Inaccessible Websites Suck

Technology should be empowering. Particularly for people with disabilities, technology should be enabling access that was hitherto impossible or very difficult. Unsurprisingly, some technologists are dickheads, and wouldn't know an accessible websites if it slapped them in the face. More surprising is that some of the least accessible websites are ones that you would expect to have got this figured out. Like Rite Aid, for example.

I would expect Rite Aid to have a website that was easy to use for people with disabilities, particularly the visually impaired. It should be easy to indicate to the website that I have difficulty reading ability and small pieces of crap information selling me things. If there is one I haven't found it yet. Instead, renewing my prescriptions is a miserable chore. Perhaps it is too much to ask, that a drugstore should focus on getting prescriptions filled before it tries to sell you Halloween crap; evidently so.

Never mind that the workflow itself simply does not work. Their website is focused on selling you things that are not the drugs that doctors have prescribed for you. It is not sufficiently tested, and makes baffling choices and shows a mixture of incorrect and simply absent information. I used to find this irritating and inconvenient. Now, however, I find it infuriating and almost impossible to navigate. If the Rite Aid weren't extremely convenient — it is only a couple of blocks away — I would go to another pharmacy already.

In 2013 it is totally unacceptable to have websites that don't work and that don't at least have accessibility options clearly available. If you want to know whether your website works for people with visual difficulties, just ask and I will be happy to come and tell you what doesn't bloody work.