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Wonder what's new at FindAnyFloor.com or in the technology world in general? Visit Damien's Blog to find out. You'll get some of the latest technology news, emerging trends, and stories from our CEO's travels, businesses and life experience among several industries.

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Damien's Blog

Disabled? No Internet for You!

By Damien Patton, (807 words) Posted in Corporate on August 15, 2008
There are (35) comments permalink

Can you imagine a world without the Internet? Without being able to book a flight online, bank online, or just search a site for your favorite hobby? Well, this is what people with certain disabilities face every day on the Internet. If I had my wish, the Internet would be accessible to all.

I'm the founder and CEO of FindAnyFloor.com, "The Web's Flooring Authority," and I am often asked why I created an information portal for the floor covering industry. My answer usually surprises people as it is not what they expect.

Last summer (2007), I was lying in bed searching the Internet for ideas for my next venture. For whatever reason, I came upon WebMD.com. Those of you not familiar with WebMD, it is a FREE medical resource for consumers and physicians alike. Coming from both a high-tech and floor-covering industry background, it immediately dawned on me: Where is the WebMD of flooring?

I spent the next couple of months searching the Internet with a team of professionals to discover what type of floor covering information was on the Internet and how it was presented to consumers and floor industry professionals. It soon became clear that there was a large void on the Internet in terms of unbiased, free information - in one central place - for flooring consumers and professionals. In order to find substantial and accurate information, one had to go through dozens of sites - and oftentimes these sites provided conflicting information! 

The idea for FindAnyFloor.com was born.

The book "I'll Do It Myself" by Glenda Watson Hyatt, who has Cerebral PalsyAlthough what I've described was the catalyst for that idea, it is certainly not what propelled us to who we are today, and this is where we surprise a lot of people. While doing the necessary research to develop FindAnyFloor.com, I met a woman named Glenda Watson Hyatt at a high-tech trade show. She just so happened to be selling a book that she had written called "I'll Do It Myself." Due to complications during birth, Glenda has Cerebral Palsy which greatly affects her speech and mobility.  She relies on her wheelchair for mobility and her keyboard for communication.  Not only did I buy her book, I went downstairs in the convention center and read it in one sitting. I may have missed a few of the trade show classes, but the book gave me one of the most valuable educations I have ever received.

I, like many people, had no idea the limitations the Internet has with regard to people with disabilities. Those of us who are not disabled may take for granted that we are able to search most sites without issue, and at our own pace. Can you imagine if buildings no longer had handicapped modifications such as restrooms with wider doors and handrails, ramps, elevators, and braile?  I couldn't. But this is exactly what most of the Internet is like for those with certain types of disabilities.

Imagine a world where you can't read what's on the Web. Or you can't hear or understand the sounds from video files because there is no closed captioning. Or you can't navigate through menus to other parts of a site.  It would be like someone taking away your mouse and telling you to go to work!  You have just experienced the way the majority of websites operate for those people with visual, hearing and mobility disabilities.

The U.S. government has a legal standard for their websites that states that they must be accessible to everyone. This standard is called Section 508. Although this standard doesn't apply to non-government, commercial websites on the Internet today, I feel strongly that more has to be done to make the Internet accessible to all. Isn't that the logical and compassionate way to go? This is why FindAnyFloor.com is committed to becoming 508 compliant by the end of 2008. It is our goal that others in the online flooring community will take note of the approximately 60 million people, in America alone, who have some type of disability that may affect the way they use the Internet.

Using the floor covering industry as our springboard, we are planning to launch a large green living website that incorporates all types of eco-friendly building materials as well as items used in everyday life. Our mission will be to create to the largest green site for consumers that will be accessible to all, again hoping that others involved in environmental pursuits will follow suit. Wouldn't it be great if the concept of creating accessible websites became viral!

In the next five years, let's hope we are looking at a whole new Internet, one that is created for everyone and is accessible to everyone.

Icon: author blog About the Author:
Damien is the Founder and CEO of FindAnyFloor.com as well as several other technolgy businesses specializing in social media and search.
image: blog cloud comment

Comments (35)

Arthur posted on: September 3, 2008

As a disabled person, I want to personally thank you for the effort you've put forth to make your site 508 compliant. Being blind, it's so frustrating that only a portion of the web is accessible to me. When I had sight, the internet was my source for everything - paying my bills, research, school, networking...everything. People don't realize how much it affects your life not being able to use the web. Your site is creating quite a buzz about this in the media. I saw your press release on forbes.com. Thanks for caring and please keep up the good work!

Arthur Potter

James Stewart posted on: December 5, 2008

I agree with Arthur, this is great to see. I have been reading a lot more about accessibility and the internet but have not seen companies putting it into practice. It is surprising to see a flooring company taking the lead on this issue, but kudos to you for doing it. I am sure this took a lot of extra time when building your new site. Hopefully others will follow suit. Keep up the good work.

Bill Dunlap posted on: January 20, 2009

I will be using your flooring website to help me with a mobile home I am restoring. I anxiously await your green website. I look forward to supporting a person who supports the rights of the disabled.

You are the greatest!!

Martin posted on: January 23, 2009

Well done, having lost about 80% of the vision in one of my eyes I have given a lot of thought to how horrible this would be if it happened to both my eyes and how hard using the net would be. I am delighted to see that somebody is giving this attention. Bravo.

Chris posted on: January 23, 2009

Please keep in mind that I am not trying to disrespect anyone with a disability, I'm not.
However, the unfortunate part of the organization of the internet is responsible for a great deal of missing
accessibility. Since a great deal (if not a majority) of content on the internet is published by individuals
who have neither the time, patience, talent, or tools to publish accessible content, I would say that it is
ultimately up to content-publishing application developers to see to it that it is just as easy to add
closed-captioning/screen reader CSS/etc.. tools to their applications that are easy to use, or even just
present at the very least. It may not directly be their responsibility, but it would go a long way towards
ensuring equal access for all.

Arj posted on: February 1, 2009

While being politically correct sounds moral and upright, we need to watch what we write when it comes to absolutes.

You have to think about the people on the "other side" of what you see on the internet. If you force websites to be accessible to all, you force people to make that. Unfortunately, that costs money. I'm afraid that would actually drive some sites (or possible future sites) off the net completely. Think of small businesses. Think of blogs. Of course, there would be great benefit to the sites that do comply; they would capture the disabled persons market in it's entirety.

By these same standards, we should apply a special law requiring accessibility to everyone that cannot normally obtain it. How much of a financial strain does that put on people on the giving end of the internet?

Arj posted on: February 1, 2009

Just another thought...

Reading through the other comments made me also realize that some company could quite possibly produce some sort of letter/word recognization software that works throughout the internet. I mean, Javascript videos and all. That may be something someone could produce and make money on one of these days...

Crippy Boy posted on: February 25, 2009

Great article. I really appreciate you looking out for those of us with disabilities. I use the internet all the time and your site really has made my life easier for looking for my new hardwood floor.

Las Vegas DUI Lawyer posted on: March 28, 2009

While on the one hand I sat here and thought, man that would be awful, then it dawned on me. If I were disabled, I think the internet would be the least of my worries. Life is so much richer than technology. Who knows if people actually to stem cell research, that old christopher reeves commercial might come true, where he walks.

mooster posted on: March 31, 2009

Um. You could start by using a darker and more widely spaced typeface right on this page. Just a thought...

Disappointed posted on: April 25, 2009

Disappointed because of some of the comments. First to DUI - I've never understood how people can say "If I were"...you aren't. You have no idea what a disabled person goes through unless you have that disability and live with it every day. With so many large businesses online (like travel) it is not only encouraged to book online, phone bookings are charged at higher fees. This is only the beginning. I just encourage you to think a bit beyond your initial statement before you say the Internet would be the least of your worries.

To mooster - I checked and this site is accessible. Hold down the CTRL key, hit + and the text size will continue to increase with each +.

Thanks for the article. I hope others will follow suit. You are doing a great thing and I wish you all the success in the world.

S.Smith posted on: May 1, 2009

Thanks for the ideas. I will work on 508 compliance in the upcoming months.

It doesn't seem difficult, and it should improve SEO.

Tony S. posted on: May 18, 2009

There is onderful information on this site and very strong opinions as well. I find this site very helpful and very informative. I thank you.

Joe posted on: May 22, 2009

Nice info on how you found something about webmd and you put your own wheels into motion on floor covering.Great inspriration to other's

Kit posted on: May 24, 2009

I'm kind of curious as to how this can be done for certain kinds of websites. I am starting a webcomic in the near future, but can't really imagine a way to make this more accessible.

Chris posted on: June 4, 2009

My nephew, who is currently in college (I think) runs this "non-commercial web site designed to promote the use of technology to help people with a range of disabilities"

http://www.bltt.org/

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