by Daniel J. Vance
Before selling in 2000, Dr. Yvonne Cariveau owned a healthy, Midwest-based, Internet service provider business. She also has had throughout life a personal connection to disability: her younger brother is deaf, and her maternal grandmother has Alzheimer's disease.
“My brother is eight years younger and is a welder,” said Cariveau, 45, in a telephone interview. “He's amazing with his hands and can fix anything. He spent some of his childhood in a residential school for the deaf and didn't live at home. But we would write and receive letters back, and send him little 'care' packages.”
To communicate better with her brother, Cariveau learned American Sign Language.
She said her brother never could hear or respond to the sounds of everyday life, such as car horns, air raid sirens, ambulance and police sirens, church and school bells, alarm clocks, telephone rings, and doorbell dings.
“I remember when someone would drop something at home (and make a loud noise) and all of us would jump,” she said. “And my brother would just sit there and remain calm.”
Then 18 months ago, Cariveau had to clear up her grandmother's legal and financial affairs, and help move her from Arizona to the Midwest. The relocation greatly disoriented her grandmother, who had just been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. The stress also affected Cariveau's mother.
All this leads to her business. Though selling her Internet provider business in 2000, she continued to design websites for organizations and businesses. Over time, in part due to her experiences with disability, she became an expert in designing ADA-compliant (Americans with Disabilities Act) websites.
So what makes a website ADA-compliant?
“First, the website should be readable,” said Cariveau. “You want to have fonts large enough to read. All the graphics should be interpreted into some form of text. You need good contrast between the text and background for people with color blindness. You want the links and buttons to have a good distance between them, and be of decent size, so people with motor difficulties or arthritis can easily click the buttons. Websites with music playing or a voice speaking somehow should have those sounds interpreted into text.”
An international set of ADA-compliant standards can be found at www.cast.org. She said ADA-compliant websites benefit all people, not just people with disabilities, because they are much easier for everyone to navigate.
For more, see www.danieljvance.com