Hello again; Today, I’m going to pick up my story where I left off. If you remember, my brother had left me to take a high paying job with Floyd and Baxter. I didn’t have the money to hire a webmaster, and I’m not sure I would have felt comfortable turning over the keys to the car to just anyone. I didn’t even know what html, php, and java all really meant. But I had a business to run and a website to maintain. So, I knew I had to learn how.
This is a screen shot from just before I moved the site to word press. I told you it was bright. 🙂
Learning to manage the site myself
I told my brother I didn’t know where to start. Michael said to start small. He advised me to find a ftp, file transfer protocol, program that I could access with speech and download the current version of the site to my computer. Then, he said and this is critical max make a copy of that folder in another place on your hard drive. He couldn’t be more clear that doing this would save my life at some point. I believed him and followed his instructions.
He said once you have a back up then start making small changes. He said pay attention to the format and the symmetry of the code he had written. He walked me through it saying then you upload the modified files and see if the site still works. If that works, then you can try more changes later. So, I did as he said and I did pretty well. I made a mess of some of his code, but I didn’t break anything I couldn’t fix.
I got pretty good at updating the existing site so the information on it was current. But people who know me know that good enough is not something I can live with for long. I wanted to do more with the site. I signed up for several email lists that catered to blind web masters or blind computer users. When people tired of answering my simple questions, I was instructed to check out the w3c school online.
I found their website and worked my way through their tutorials. I read about creating a home page and choosing a color pallet. I didn’t have much vision at the time, but I remembered how good my old game trailer looked. It had yellow walls to hang all the prizes on.
I had no way of knowing what colors went with which color numbers, so i kept it simple. I just chose the color names allowing the system to give m the default color for that name. I picked yellow for the background, blue for the text, and red for links. I would find out later that the yellow i chose was an eye screaming version of the color. And it made the brick red and navy blue look more harsh. I don’t think it was as pretty as i envisioned it in my mind. I did use that color scheme for several years and most people put up with it. I now understand that websites are better with simple black and white for txt and links with images making up the color.
Next, after learning about colors, I worked on adding meta tags, links to other sites, and embedding images. Learning how to add the tags for title, description, and keywords was very simple. The harder part was learning how to properly use them. I had to read a lot of articles online before I felt Like I knew what should be included in each and how many characters or terms to use.
Adding links was pretty straight forward. Links are easy because the format is symmetrical. At least that is how I see the process in my mind. I will admit that even with sound those less than and grater than signs start to run together. The worst part about adding links is that if you forget even one character the link not only won’t work but it will keep other items farther down on the page from working as well. Sometimes, It would take me a long time to figure out exactly what character I left out where. One thing that did make the whole process easier is that html documents can b opened in your browser for testing prior to uploading.
Th hardest one of this bunch was adding photos. The process is the same whether you are posting an image for display only or if you are wanting the image to be a link to another page on your site. In order to have the image show up you have to include information that tells computers where the file is located on your site, the dimensions in height and width, and the link you want to open when someone clicks on the image.
However, I still had to learn about the alt tag for photos. This tag adds a description to the image that will be read by screen readers. I had to add these tags to all my images so I could check to see if they were loaded properly. If you are building websites I beg you to add alt tags to all your images as they are the only way a totally or mostly blind person will know there are images on your sites.
I had a lot of trouble with embedding photos. No matter how careful I was I would often end up with a blank square on my site where the image should have ben. Sometimes it was putting in the wrong dimensions. Other times the photo name was wrong or the path specifying the location of the file was wrong. If even one letter was off say by being capitalized instead of lower case or the other way around it wouldn’t work.
A lot of the time I was working on my own either in the house trailer on a festival or fair location or at home by myself while the family went and worked the food trailer. So, I got in the habit of posting updated pages to face book and asking my friends to tell me how it looked. at least this way I could know if I had blank holes on the site or not. I still post new listing and videos to face book and linked in for feedback prior to including an item in a mass mailing or social media blitz. I always got more responses to the posts asking people to check my work than I get most of the time to completed posts.
I have since switched to using word press for my site and don’t need as much feedback as I used to. Although I still ask people for their opinions. as a blind person the one thing I can never be 100 percent sure of is the visual appeal of the website. I still get emails telling me the site is plain looking and that I should hire this company or that to make it more powerful. But I prefer to keep it simple. If nothing else I figure that simple is easier for my target audience as a high percentage of visitors to my site are using a cell phone, tablet, laptop, or other mobil device to access the web.
Becoming a mac user
I mentioned working on the site from the road. This reminds me of how I became a mac user. I knew that if I were going to be running a website from the road I would need a laptop. So, I went and bought a nice one on credit. I installed a copy of Jaws for windows on it to give it speech. I used it for several months with no problems. Then it crashed on me. It was under warrantee so I took it back to the store where I bought it. They got it running again but I lost a lot of data. This happened a couple more times. Finally, they determined that the mother board was damaged and that this wasn’t covered in the warrantee.
I wanted to get a new laptop but this time I did my research. I found out that the reason the laptop broke is that they weren’t intended to run a screen reader along with the usual programs. It turned out that the only way to be sure the next computer would last would have been to purchase an external sound card. The extra expense would have made the total cost to high for me to have afforded. And the idea of having to have an external sound card on a laptop just seems silly.
About this time Michael heard about Apple’s computers having a screen reader called voiceover built into it as part of the operating system. He asked me if I wanted to give them a try. I asked him what one would cost. He said well mac’s are more expensive, but he told me we could upgrade the operating system on an ibook 4 or ibook 5 to a late enough version that i would be able to try out the speech without investing a lot of money.
He decided to help make up my mind by offering to buy a used one on Ebay. The ibook didn’t have an intel processor. And using it was a lot different than using windows. But I finally started getting the hang of it. I liked it enough that a year or so later me, patrick, and my mom pooled our money to buy a brand new mac book computer. It had one gigabyte of memory and a 150 gigabyte hard drive, but it was great. I loved it and had it for four years. I only replaced it because the hard drive was full and it was starting to act funny.
I had just made a good sale and decided that I better invest in some new equipment. I bought a brand new 13 inch macbook pro. It has 4 gigabytes of ram and a 500 gigabyte hard drive. I didn’t spring for the new solid state hard drives mainly because they were only available in 700 gb at that time. Apple has continued their mission of offering built in support for the blind and visually impaired as well as people with other physical disabilities.
I don’t own an Iphone, Ipod, or Ipad; but I have finally accepted the value of having an i device. This is because there are a lot of helpful programs available for the i devices that aren’t offered on a laptop or aren’t available in versions that are as accessible as their ios counterparts. Some of these include apps for sirius xm radio, the national library service for the blind, face book, twitter, youtube, etc.
So, I had my computer problem solved and I was starting to learn how to build and maintain my website. But I was still having trouble getting new listings. Heck, I had trouble just getting people to return my phone calls or answer my emails. Next time, i will tell you what I did to start turning this around.
Coaching and speaking
For a while now I have been offering to serve as a mentor or coach. I don’t have any formal training, so I have been offering this for free. I did this hoping to gain experience before starting to charge people. So far, no one has taken me up on this offer. I made a similar offer concerning speaking to groups. I said I would do it for basic expenses only. I haven’t had the first nibble on this one either. Having decided that people are more likely to seek help and follow the suggestions when they invest in their own development I will be establishing a fee schedule for both to take effect September 1st. The final decision will be posted to the site. In the mean time I would appreciate your opinions and suggestions on this issue.
Sharing is caring
I want to thank all my wonderful friends who have supported me and the new blog by leaving comments and sharing my posts. I have done my best to show my appreciation by doing the same for you. I hope to be able to continue this policy of reciprocation. I look forward to your thoughts on this one.
I love hearing from my readers and look forward to meting you online and getting to know you better. So feel free to write to me through the contact form. Whether you have a question, or need some encouragement, or just want to talk; I’m here for you. I hope to hear from you soon. Thanks for reading and take care out there, Max