I may be on to a big, big project - Help needed!

I just came back from attending a federal Summit on Self Advocacy for those with developmental disabilities. (My daughter and I have autism.) Pretty much every state team had its goal, building a website / using Social Media and using it to build online communities. There is a big push for us to begin to look past government to make connections, develop professional relationships, etc, and for that to happen, I know that having quality websites is a must.

There are a small handful of us self advocates with some technical skills. We believe that it is very important that people with disabilities learn how to create and manage our own sites (to the greatest extent possible). In my community, a group of self advocates recently spent over $300,000 on having a website built in Flash. Hardly anyone uses it, it's awkward, and it has the appearance of accessibility without really being accessible. (I discovered that screen readers won't work on it.) Those of us living with disabilities understand accessibility better than anyone. Also, we need to have enough technical knowledge to administer the site after it is built, especially an online community. Even if an outside firm assists with design/construction, having clients who understand a little more about webdesign basics would be invaluable with design specs and QA.

I think WordPress is a good platform for us. I'd like to know more about accessibility to make sure that it is the best choice. I've been evaluating CMS's over the last year, slow going because I'm not a web designer. I had ruled out WordPress early on as being too limited for a community, but I've come back because of BuddyPress. I've been working without funding up to now, because I'm on SSDI, but now I've got some big opportunities. If I can get a demo site up and going quickly to show them what is possible (and to totally and completely pwn that other site), then this will snowball into very serious money. Most importantly, this work has the potential to improve lives for thousands of individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities around the country. With all the budget cuts going on, it is desperately needed.

I don't know how to find the right connections for this and I know this is way bigger than what I can do on my own. Ideas, suggestions, good links...would be welcome.

thanks, Cinder McDonald

  • James Farmer

    Heya Cinder,

    Welcome to WPMU DEV - great to have you as a member :slight_smile:

    Man, the Flash experience sounds awful - for everyone except the flash developers - WordPress is 100% better for accessibility than that though so you;re onto a great start.

    Also, I think that BuddyPress + DEV plugins is a great starting point for community - especially as it's only going to get better.

    Is there any reason you can't get a demo site up and running yourself? We're here to help you through any hurdles or blockages that you might experience... so just let us know what;s standing in your way / how we can assist!

    Cheers, James

  • Timothy Bowers

    Hi sandylioness.

    Flash in my opinion has its uses, video, audio (HTML5 is replacing this though and that can only get better), games and similar media. A whole website.... erm... I'd rather not. Many search engines I believe still have problems indexing flash. Apple won't support it on the iPhone because of security issues. Personally not a fan of it being used to make sites!

    With regards to accessibility on the front end of a WordPress website, this is all down to the design really, there are a large number of themes available, Screen Readers will look for titles to read, if a theme is missing that, it isn't hard to implement. Other options like text enlargers and such can be implemented easily.

    I've never tested the admin area for screen readers, but if it doesn't work well I'd be surprised and that said I'm sure it wouldn't take much to make the required changes if needed.

    I'm not sure what exactly you are looking for though, I notice from your site http://cindermcdonald.com/ that you already use WordPress, so I presume you have some familiarity with it (I note you are not using permalinks).

    So I suppose the question is, what are you look to achieve with regards to your request? What sort of help are you asking for? :slight_smile:

  • sandylioness

    Is there a solid, systematic way to learn WordPress? Just installing plugins and playing with the Dashboard isn't helping me that much. I get slowed down because I don't always understand the terminology and then I have to stop and Google them and it slows me down. I'm getting frustrated and that is affecting my ability to think things through. I'm a bit slow when it comes to learning things at first, but once I have it down, I'm fine. I think more in pictures, so visuals or physical demonstrations are more effective for me than trying to assimilate instructions from reading. I have to keep reading the same thing several times before it sinks in. I like most of the videos you have at WPMU, but I wish I had a way to slow down the pace - the speaker talks too fast and I have to repeat them multiple times, it gets tiring.

    I looked for an online class on WordPress, some kind of WP 101, but couldn't find anything - WPMU was the closest I could find. I'm also looking for a WordPress guru in my local community, but there's the issue that nobody wants to (or can do) anything without there being some kind of upfront cash. To most people, building a website doesn't seem like a groundbreaking thing, but in this particular community, trust me, it is. There are some people who think that many people with developmental disabilities aren't even capable of getting online, much less building their own online communities. I'm proving that isn't the case at all. Some of us are on Facebook, though it has a lot of flaws. I think Facebook might be OK once you've mastered the basics, but there needs to be a place where disabled people can go to learn the basics, plus be able to freely discuss our issues. Sometimes families, providers are censors. We're fighting for some basic freedoms that most take for granted.

  • Timothy Bowers

    There are some people who think that many people with developmental disabilities aren't even capable of getting online, much less building their own online communities.

    Things must be harsh where you live then?

    There are various initiatives to make the web a more friendly place for people with disabilities. I have autistic family members whom spend most of their life on the net and more specifically Facebook. I also have disabled friends whom are online.

    I guess some people are narrow minded, huh!

  • sandylioness

    http://www.cindermcdonald.com isn't my main site. That is a site I am using to store things and to teach myself WordPress. http://www.azassist.com is the community site, in Wetpaint, which we have outgrown. What I am working on is building a new site for http://www.azassist.com, plus a site for the AZ chapter of the Autistics Self Advocacy Network, and looking ahead to building sites for other self advocacy sites, on a group level or on a state level. I want to be in place, ready to go, when they start throwing out money. I don't claim to be a full-fledged developer, I am stumbling in the dark a lot here most of the time. But I do know far more about websites than most advocates and I aim to learn as much as I can in the next few weeks.

    A site for self advocates would need the following (in my opinion). I don't have a design doc yet. This is just off the top of my head. I know WPMU has many of these addons, and I've downloaded them. It's the "how do I go about putting them all together" that I am struggling with...

    -Accessible (some members would use screen readers because they are low vision or can't read, most are cognitively challenged, so a wide variety of learning disabilities, some are physically challenged (limited or no use of hands, for instance), so they are using assistive technology to get online. Also, sensory issues - so unexpected things like pop ups or sounds that autoplay are a bad idea. Need to consider connectivity issues for those in rural areas? Will need ability to convert to Spanish (and other language) in future editions.

    -Somewhat of a wiki (need to find resources, document history of the movement, etc)

    -a really good, easy-to-use calendar - to find and help keep track of events. Should be able to add calendar events to personal calendar simply.

    -have a way for multiple people to blog. (most people will be brand new to blogging)

    -easy to use forum. I don't know the words to describe what is needed, just that most forums are too bulky/cluttered to be user friendly. People add too many cutesy stuff.

    -ability to send alerts to the group on critical issues. Also be able to send out newsletters.

    -online advertising, either become affiliates or sell ads to disability-related business. Start using those "disability dollars" to help our cause. Also ability to accept donations via PayPal.

    -that automated feature where it's easy to email legislatures.

    -connectivity with Twitter, Facebook, etc as community grows in technical skills.

    -a way to make much of this as cookie-cutter as possible, so as new self advocacy groups spring up (which they will), they won't have to reinvent the wheel. There could be a toolkit to start from.

    -a systematic, straightforward way to train people on how to be administrators, moderators, etc. This will become a source of jobs for disabled people as these sites grow.

    -how to tackle the legal stuff, like disclaimers. HIPAA for one, since there are health/medical issues involved.

  • Timothy Bowers

    so unexpected things like pop ups or sounds that autoplay are a bad idea.

    That sort of thing annoys me anyway.

    Will need ability to convert to Spanish (and other language) in future editions.

    https://premium.wpmudev.org/project/ultimate-translate

    -Somewhat of a wiki (need to find resources, document history of the movement, etc)

    What about an actual wiki?

    https://premium.wpmudev.org/project/wordpress-wiki

    -a really good, easy-to-use calendar - to find and help keep track of events. Should be able to add calendar events to personal calendar simply.

    You might need something a little more custom for this one, although there are some plugins out there but I'm not sure about continued support as I've never needed one myself.

    However if you considered BuddPress - http://buddypress.org then WPMUDEV have a calendar plugin

    https://premium.wpmudev.org/project/buddypress-group-calendar

    -have a way for multiple people to blog.

    You could either give author access to your main blog (maybe not a good idea?) or give them their own blogs in a multisite install.

    -easy to use forum. I don't know the words to describe what is needed, just that most forums are too bulky/cluttered to be user friendly. People add too many cutesy stuff.

    bbPress integrates with WordPress and there is currently a plugin being developed by one of the guys who works on BuddyPress - http://bbpress.org/

    BuddyPress also has bbPress built into it, but I think that will be changing with the forthcoming bbPress plugin. - http://buddypress.org

    WPMUDEV also offer a forum plugin which lets blogs have their own forums: https://premium.wpmudev.org/project/forums

    -ability to send alerts to the group on critical issues. Also be able to send out newsletters.

    If you have below 5000 users then:

    https://premium.wpmudev.org/project/mass-email-sender

    For a professional solution of over 5000:

    https://premium.wpmudev.org/project/mailchimp-newsletter-integration

    If you are using BuddyPress, you can set up groups with group mail:

    https://premium.wpmudev.org/project/buddypress-group-email

    -connectivity with Twitter, Facebook, etc as community grows in technical skills.

    There are number of options you can test like socialbles or Otto's plugins.

    -a way to make much of this as cookie-cutter as possible, so as new self advocacy groups spring up (which they will), they won't have to reinvent the wheel. There could be a toolkit to start from.

    Not sure what you mean, but people could create groups in BuddyPress or blogs in WP multisite.

    -a systematic, straightforward way to train people on how to be administrators, moderators, etc. This will become a source of jobs for disabled people as these sites grow.

    Thats something for you to handle, Videos', wiki's, blogs, images, I'm sure there is much you can do here.

    -how to tackle the legal stuff, like disclaimers. HIPAA for one, since there are health/medical issues involved.

    Not sure what you are asking, but I think its for some kind of TOS on registration. So try the looking at the following:

    https://premium.wpmudev.org/project/terms-of-service

    Hope this helps! :slight_smile:

  • AltisonaMedia

    Hi sandylioness

    Tim has done a great job in giving you some pointers for your answers.

    One term which us UK bods don't often use is cookie cutters. However, wordpress and buddypress is so modularised that it is very easy to create a website template that works (e.g. themes, plugins, language files and custom functions) and then use that template as the basis for other sites you create. We are doing a similar thing but in a different field.

    Having read through this thread I would recommend Buddypress. The advantages are:
    1. comes with forum integration
    2. users can microblog. This keeps blogging and social interaction under one roof.
    3. there are number of events plugins available (which come with calendars)
    4. your members can choose how they stay informed in forums and groups (install the group email options plugin for buddypress)
    5. buddypress is designed for community sites.
    6. the site is still wordpress so you can run a main site blog for new, updates etc.
    7. members can have their own profiles, where you as an admin can create custom, searcheable fields for relevant information.

    the list goes on...but out of the box with a few extra plugins you will probably get a lot of what you need with Buddypress

  • wizzer

    Hi Cinder

    Correct me if I'm wrong but it seems to me what you need is someone (or a group) who are happy to provide you with the support you need and guidance as you go. Someone you know you can rely on to answer your questions when you get stuck.

    You can learn all of this stuff today but when you need it next week / month etc you find it has somehow been unlearned and you can't remember where all the details were.

    I'm Mark, a.k.a. Wizzer, and I have a son on the autistic spectrum.

    I'm totally in tune with
    1) what you are trying to do
    2) the day to day challenges of living with an ASD and in particular the attitudes of "authority" - I'm in the UK so may be different to your experiences but somehow I doubt it!
    3) the issues re Wordpress

    I'd love to help.

    Firstly, please take a look at one of my sites (I'm co-founder) at http://bloggingbeginners.com

    Sign up - it's free. We teach how to use Wordpress but more importantly we are there to answer questions whenever they arise to include creating a video explaining anything complex.

    I'm working on a new project right now (updating and improving on Blogging Beginners) and I could easily dovetail part of it into what you are looking for.

    Let me know if you want to converse more & we can set up a direct conversation
    Mark

  • fernandoescobar

    Hey Sandy,

    You're in Arizona, so am I.
    It sounds to me like you need a partner. I'm in the process of creating a "network" similar to what you have described (not in that field, of course).

    Get a hold of me, if you'd like to discuss a potential partnership. Not sure if I can post my email address here so, go to my page and send me an email from there.

    Hope to hear from you,
    Fernando Escobar
    http://www.fernandoescobar.net

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