March 8 was International Women’s Day. I celebrated by leading a discussion of two memoirs My Beloved World and Prison Baby and memoirs in general for a book club. Then I sent the following email to about fifty awesome women I know.

“Because it’s International Women’s Day, I wanted to celebrate the awesome women I know, like you. Here are some Maya Angelou quotes for you:

  1. “If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded.”
  2. “My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry…to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.”
  3. “While I know myself as a creation of God, I am also obligated to remember that everyone else and everything else are also God’s creations.”
  4. “It may be necessary to encounter the defeats so you can know who you are, what you can rise from and how you can still come out of it.” Thanks for being you.”

Another day I participated in a state hearing on the redesign of long-term care in Wisconsin and in the evening spoke at city council about a street project in my neighborhood. I was moved by these two experiences to write the following letter to the editor of the local paper:

“There is Hope for Democracy!

Like many, I’m discouraged about national and state politics and find myself saying “surely we can do better.” Monday I was privileged to participate in two examples of democracy that reassured me that we really can.

I went to a hearing on long-term care in Wisconsin, specifically Family Care/IRIS 2.0. About 150 people gathered to give feedback to state officials about their concept paper. The audience was composed of parents of adults with complex and major disabilities, advocates for the elderly and disabled, a few people with disabilities and professionals in the fields of service to the elderly and disabled. Parents and other caregivers shared passionately about struggles and joys of caregiving and trying to put food on their tables at the same time. Major and minor changes to the plan were suggested. State officials and our two state representatives listened respectfully.  Afterwards many people hung around to greet old friends and network.  Whether any or all of the changes suggested will be enacted remains to be seen, but people felt heard.

Later in the day about forty neighbors and I gathered at City Council’s Monday night open session to give feedback on a proposed street project at the corner of Park and Summit Avenues.  Again, many opinions about which plan was best were expressed. People were civil and discussion was good.  Afterwards small groups talked and neighbors were neighborly no matter which plan they had espoused.

Surely these open, respectful discussions of issues are not unique to Eau Claire. Can I hope that we can find candidates who will do likewise in Madison and Washington?”

As I thought about the lack of handouts in accessible format at the state hearing, I sent the following email to the agency’s general mailbox:

“When I went to the Family Care/IRIS 2.0 hearing in Eau Claire, I noticed we met in an accessible facility and there was a sign language interpreter. Good job! Now as we round the corner to the second 25 years of the Americans with Disabilities Act, there’s another kind of accessibility you need to cover, access to materials for the blind and visually-impaired. Whenever you provide handouts in print (as you did at this hearing), you need to have several copies in large print and at least a couple in braille. You didn’t. I’m sure this is just an oversight, but if you don’t know where to get braille copies made, let me know and I’ll tell you. Please also pass this on to other Wisconsin governmental units that have public hearings.  Thanks for helping provide access.”

I then sent the note to two listservs of blind people in Wisconsin for their ideas of how to get some traction for this idea.

When I looked at Twitter, lo and behold, an inaccessible spelling challenge from the New York Public Library. I sent an email to a specialized librarians’ listserv, hoping they’ll educate their colleagues as follows:

“Today the New York Public Library had a spelling quiz they tweeted about. I’m a sucker for games so of course I clicked on the link. Before my screen reader had read the first question, I was told that it had timed me out. I understand they don’t want people to look the words up, but it’s just a game! If you must have a timed version of something on your website, also have an untimed version for those of us in the slow lane!”

I even ventured onto the NYPL site and virtual chatted with a librarian who said they’d submit my suggestion to the right place. I do wonder with all these suggestions out there, will anything be more accessible a year from now?

 Late Breaking News:

Somebody from a listserv knew somebody from the NYPL and within two days this link for an untimed version of the spelling bee is up: YES!

At the end of the week I’m looking forward to watching a movie with friends and playing bridge with another group.  Not “inspirational”, just an ordinary week!