Darrell Hyatt, Lorelle VanFossen and Glenda Watson Hyatt (left to right) at BlogWorldExpo 2009 (courtesy Lorelle VanFossen)You won’t find a more powerful advocate for making the Web accessible to everyone than Glenda Watson Hyatt.  She has cerebral palsy but is able to control her left thumb, so that is how she does all of her typing and work on her terrific Do It Myself blog.

All of it.

With her left thumb.

It was particularly mind-blowing when she used a variety of technologies (including an electronic voice named Kate to sync to her slides) to give a presentation last year at the Chicago SOBCon social Web conference about how to make one’s blog accessible to those with disabilities.  (Here is a quick recap of Glenda’s presentation from WordPress blog publishing software expert Lorelle VanFossen.)

Glenda really opened our eyes that day to how the disabled often struggle to access the Web for work or personal enjoyment.  She has a wicked sense of humor, too; we all left her presentation laughing and enlightened (and many of us, myself included, considerably chastened by our own blindness to our disabled readers.)

We learned that the blind and vision-impaired can’t see our photos and graphics because we don’t include simple coding to describe them through the ALT tag (used by screen readers) and the deaf and hard of hearing can’t hear the sounds in our videos or podcasts because we don’t caption them or provide transcripts.

The disabled travel, too, and there are millions of them.  Have you thought about whether your tourism-related Web site gives them the information they need to plan a trip?

For example, even if your whole lovely historic downtown is ADA-approved (Americans with Disabilities Act that requires buildings to accommodate wheelchairs, etc.) fewer will visit if they can’t get information or trip-planning assistance from your inaccessible Web site.

People use the Web to plan trips, and that includes the disabled.

Lorelle VanFossen points out in a Web accessibility article in the Blog Herald that….

The Ever-Shifting Internet Population reports that 38% of Americans with disabilities surf the web and almost 20% of them say that their disability makes web browsing challenging. There are a wide range of estimates, but at least one in four visitors to your blog are disabled.

That’s a huge customer base you might be missing and not serving.”

The indefatigable Glenda never stops working to make the Web available to everyone.

To that end, she is launching the 2010 Accessibility 100 book with tips for simple ways to make your site more accessible, and she issued a writing challenge in support of the book launch:

Write 25 words about what accessibility means to you.

So, I did, and here’s my 25 word contribution:

As the Web becomes more available across the world,  I don’t want my little pieces of it to be inaccessible through my own thoughtless ignorance.”

Take a moment to think about whether your destination marketing Web sites market to all of your possible visitors, including the disabled.

I’ve embedded a short video below that Lorelle shot during Glenda’s talk – you can see her equipment setup and hear some of her suggestions.  If you’d like to hire Glenda to work with you to improve your sites, she can do that, too.

Update: the video is gone now, but here is another about the presentation from the same event….