Spotlight on Mike Murray

Last updated: May 23, 2015

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The Orlando Central Florida Chapter's newsletter Memo to Members has a very nice spotlight interview of Mike Murry written by Tavia Record (tavia@stc-orlando.org).

Photo of Mike Murray
Mike Murray

The May 19, 2015 spotlight article "On the Record Spotlight: Mike Murray" discusses his experiences as a teacher, mentor, technical communicator, and leader.

In the same issue, be sure to read Mike's column "Blog Entry: TALES FROM DA VOICE" about Acceptance and Gratitude.

Mike Murray is a a 30-year member of STC, holds the honor of STC Associate Fellow, is a past three-time chapter president of the Orlando Central Florida STC chapter, and is a founding member of the Accessibility SIG. In May 2014, Mike gave us his personal story, "The Elephant in the Room" about how he is dealing both physically and mentally with the onset of Parkinson’s Disease.

Apply for the Technical Editing SIG Scholarship

Last updated: May 21, 2015

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The Diane Feldman Technical Editing SIG Scholarship

The Technical Editing Special Interest Group of the Society for Technical
Communication is now accepting applications for a $1400 undergraduate
scholarship and a $1400 graduate scholarship for students pursuing studies
in technical communication.

Complete information and online application available here:
http://www.stc-techedit.org/Scholarship.

The deadline for applications is July 1, 2015. Winners will be notified in
early August 2015.

For more information, contact Rebekka Andersen, Chair, STC Technical Editing SIG Scholarship Committee at randersen@ucdavis.edu.

In memoriam: Fabien Vais

Last updated: May 21, 2015

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It is with great sadness that we have to tell you that Fabien Vais, one of the founders of the AccessAbility SIG, passed away September 17, 2014.

Honors Banquet Reception: Fabien Vais with the AccessAbility SIG 2005 Pacesetter Award certificate.
Fabien Vais with the AccessAbility SIG 2005 Pacesetter Award certificate at the Honors Banquet.

Fabien and the rest of the founding team of what was originally the Special Needs Committee worked hard to make known the concept of “accessibility” to the world of technical communicators. Fabien was a stubborn, tireless, and passionate advocate for accessibility. He initiated the conference accessibility guide to the annual STC conferences. In the very first issue of our now defunct Achieve! newsletter, Fabien explains how he and Dan Voss toured the site of an upcoming conference and discovered "that never-ending corridor leading to a dead-end with seven steps! We had passed an elevator that would have avoided the cul-de-sac 150 feet earlier, but there was no sign directing individuals in wheelchairs to take that route. That was a perfect example of the importance of proper signage."

Fabien touched the lives of many members of the SIG and the STC. Here are some photos that are bound to bring back some memories.

At the 2005 STC Annual Conference in Seattle, Washington, Cynthia Lockley took the following photo at the AccessAbility SIG mixer. On the left is Dan Voss with a glass of wine, Brenda Huettner in the middle with a big smile, and Fabien Vais on the right. Fabien is not wearing his conference badge around his neck like the other two, but he is wearing the enamel AccessAbility SIG pins we made as conference giveaways that year.

Dan Voss, Brenda Huettner, and Fabian Vais at the AccessAbility SIG mixer.

There are quite a few photos of Fabien from the 2003 STC Annual Conference in Dallas, Texas. Gail Lippincott took a photo of Jodi, Gail, Melissa, and Fabien in front of a statue of a black-colored elephant with large white tusks. Jodi and Gail are standing on the left, Melissa is seated in front of the elephant, and Fabien is in the wheelchair he used for traveling.

Jodi, Gail, Melissa, and Fabien.

When Dan Voss and Fabien got together, things always got silly. In this photo, Dan is passing on the SIG Manager position to Fabien. The photo is called "Deputy Fabien and Sheriff Dan" because both are wearing 10-gallon white cowboy hats (they are in Texas!) and blue vests each with a giant sheriff star made out of yellow construction paper!

Deputy Fabien and Sheriff Dan

Later, still in Texas, Fabien Vais donned a monk’s cloak! In this photo by Cynthia Lockley, he is seated at the dining table looking very much like the photo’s title: His Reverence. Three other members are seated at his table. Two seem very respectful of His Reverence – Gail Lippincott on his right in medieval dress, and Judy Skinner seated across from him in a bright turquoise shirt. The man on Fabien's left seems more interested in studying the menu!

Fabien Vais Reverence

Cynthia Lockley took another close-up of Fabien as a monk. He looks seriously into the camera with the brown hood over his head, but the dark locks of the monk’s wig peeks out from under the hood in contrast to the elegant silver of Fabien’s hair and beard.

Fabien Vais as a monk

Cynthia also snapped a photo of Fabien at the SIG luncheon. In this photo, Fabien is seated with Mike Murray at the typical big round luncheon tables they have at conferences. With only glasses of ice water and ice tea and a spoon in front of them, it looks like this was taken right before dessert or coffee time.

Fabien Vais and Mike Murray at the SIG luncheon.

At the 2002 STC Conference in Nashville, Cynthia snapped a photo of Fabien discussing plans for the progressions with Lori Gillen at a small round tables with white cloth covering.

Fabien Vais and Lori Gillen

In Chicago for the 2001 STC Annual Conference, nine people got together for this photo of the Special Needs Committee business meeting. Fabien is seated in the front on the left and Cynthia Lockley is seated on the right. The other seven people are standing in the background. Dan Voss is holding a light blue paper flag with the logo of the Special Needs Committee. On the table in front of Cynthia are a stack of brochures about the committee.

Special Needs Committee Business Meeting

At the 2000 STC Conference in Orlando, Carolyn Kelley Klinger snapped a photo of Fabien Vais in his wheelchair and Cynthia Lockley in her scooter smiling in the sun by the Dolphin Hotel pool.

Fabien Vais & Cynthia Lockley

Travel down memory lane and see more photos of Fabien in our photo albums on Flickr. Please do share your memories of Fabien in the comments.

We extend our condolences to Fabien's family.

Personal Story: The Elephant in the Room

Last updated: May 21, 2015

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Guest Author: Mike Murray

[Editor's note: Republished with kind permission from the original posting in the April 2014 issue of Memo to Members, the newsletter of the Orlando-Central Florida STC chapter. For more information about Parkinson's, see the list of resources at Parkinson’s Disease.]

Photo of Mike Murray
Mike Murray

By Mike Murray, Former 3-Year President of the Orlando Central Florida Chapter of Distinction and STC Associate Fellow

Being a 30-year member of the Orlando Central Florida Chapter of STC, I have grown to love the organization and hate missing meetings. Recently, however, I missed the better part of two years while I was dealing both physically and mentally with the onset of Parkinson's disease or PD [sic].

During my first STC chapter meeting when I finally felt well enough to rejoin life, I noticed a long-time friend and colleague looking at me. Even after my eyes met his and I mouthed "What?" he continued to look and said in a low voice, "Nothing. I'm just looking." That long, knowing, inquisitive stare, coupled with my newly developed ESP, was what it took for me to get the message. And what exactly is the message? Simply that people cannot possibly know what to do or say when there is an "elephant in the room."

The Birth of an Elephant

I was first diagnosed with PD in September of 2008. PD is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects your movement. It develops gradually, sometimes starting with a barely noticeable tremor in just one hand. But while a tremor may be the most well-known sign of PD, the disorder also commonly causes stiffness or slowing of movement. PD affects different people "differently." For me, it made my legs extremely weak, affected my balance, and dramatically changed my voice.

The official diagnosis was very difficult for me to handle. This certainly wasn't what I envisioned for retirement. I was looking forward to lots of travel, fishing, and my passion—sports announcing. But as PD would have it, I had to surrender my driver's license. As if that wasn't enough, I lost my announcing voice. As a fiercely independent person, I became dependent and isolated. My whole world changed overnight.

Advice for Other Elephants

Once you have a name for your illness, you should seek out a professional who specializes in it. It may take a while for your doctor to determine the mix of medications that will do you the most good. At the same time, identify a therapist. It is very important for you to talk about your malady. You have to make it real before you can accept it.

Practice Acceptance

Yes, acceptance is very important. What else can you do? Going the "Why me?" route simply delays your life adjustments. Yes, you can still lead an interesting, fulfilling life. As I said to my son Aaron, "I can't believe this is happening to me." His response was, "Well it is!" His message was clear. Quit wasting time, accept it, and move on. I sure did raise some smart sons.

Practice Thankfulness

Counting your blessings with a sense of pleasure and wholeness is a way to be thankful. People with a strong sense of gratitude, love and appreciation don't necessarily have more than others; they aren't "luckier." They simply recognize and see more beauty in their lives. A 2003 study suggests that people who count their blessings are generally happier and healthier than people who don't. If you ever feel as if anything in your life isn't "enough," try practicing an attitude of thankfulness. You might realize how good you have it after all.

How to Deal with Elephants in the Room

Treat people with disabilities as you would anyone else:

  • Welcome them if they are new in your class or workplace.
  • Never stare at them or act condescending or patronizing.
  • Don't focus on the disability.
  • It is important that you treat them as equals, talk to them as you would to anyone else, and act as you would normally act if a new person entered into your life.

Don't be afraid of asking what disability people are dealing with if you feel this might help you make a situation easier for them (like asking a person with a mobility restriction if he or she would prefer to take the elevator with you instead of the stairs if you see that walking poses a challenge). Chances are, people with disabilities have been asked that question a million times, and they know how to explain their disability in a few sentences. If the disability resulted from an accident or if the information is too personal, they will most likely answer that they prefer not to discuss it.

How to Deal with THIS Elephant

Returning to the long-time friend and colleague who was just looking at me, rather than put him on the spot, I answered him in the form of an open letter to all my dear friends in the STC chapter. Here's what I said:

Dear Friends:

It's time we have a heart-to-heart talk about my Parkinson's disease (PD). At our last chapter meeting, I realized that my failure to do this a long time ago has placed you in an awkward position: how do you deal with "the elephant in the room"?

So here it is, straight from the elephant's mouth.

It has taken me a very long time to accept Parkinson's disease (PD), retirement, aging, leaving behind "Da Voice," surrendering my driver's license, etc. The way things came down on me at nearly the exact same time made things extra tough. I was unable to ease gracefully into retirement, but I am doing much better. IT IS OKAY to make kind comments, ask specific questions, etc. There is no need to avoid the subject. I no longer wish to be "the elephant in the room."

Google will tell you everything you ever thought you wanted to know about PD. For each person, the symptoms vary; for example, I do not have the tremors (thank goodness). The symptoms I do have come and go unexpectedly and vary in intensity. Here is what you can expect:

  • Stiff muscles (rigidity) and aching muscles. Rigidity can also affect the muscles of my legs, face, neck, or other parts of the body and may cause muscles to feel tired and achy.
  • Slow, limited movement (bradykinesia), especially when I try to move from a resting position. For instance, it may be difficult to get out of a chair.
  • Weakness of face and throat muscles. Talking and swallowing may become more difficult. Speech becomes softer and monotonous. Loss of movement in the muscles in my face can cause a fixed, vacant facial expression, often called the "Parkinson's mask." By the way, it is perfectly okay to ask me to repeat myself.
  • Difficulty with walking and balance. Sometimes, I might take small steps and shuffle with my feet close together, bend forward slightly at the waist (stooped posture), and have trouble turning around. I'm trying to remember not to walk that way.
  • Cramps in the muscles and joints.
  • Freezing, a sudden, brief inability to move. It most often affects walking.
  • Fatigue and/or sleepiness may come on very quickly without warning.
  • When anxiety is high, I'm behind on sleep, etc., I can sometimes get a little emotional. If it happens, just keep smiling and talking. I'll snap out of it. Emotional and physical stress tends to make the symptoms more noticeable. Sleep, complete relaxation, and intentional movement or action usually reduce or stop most of the symptoms.

To summarize, I am aware that I look weird, act weird, and talk weird. It's like living in a building and watching it fall apart around me. Well, I'm still in here! Please know that in my brain, I am still a wild and crazy guy! It's fine to talk to me as you always have, and don't give a second thought to anything else.

Does that help? If not, ask me anything you like. I love each and every one of you.

How to Create an Elephant

Simply ignoring people with disabilities because you think they may not want to discuss it may make them feel inadequate. They may think you don't want to deal with them as fellow human beings or that you are trying to avoid being asked for help.

It all boils down to this:

  • If your disability makes you think of yourself as the elephant in the room, you will be that elephant.
  • If you treat someone with a disability like the elephant in the room, he or she will become that elephant.

The simple answer is to just treat everyone as a person, disabilities or abilities aside.

There are no elephants in the room; we create them.

(Author's Note: Special thanks to Dan Voss, one of my very best friends and the best darn editor in the entire universe!)

Guest Author: Mike Murray

Quick Review of “Digital Outcasts” by Kel Smith

Last updated: May 21, 2015

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Some of you may remember hearing Kel Smith speak in 2011 at the STC Summit in Sacramento. Since then, one of Kel's projects has been writing a book.

Well, that book is available now. You can read about the book, Digital Outcasts: Moving Technology Forward Without Leaving People Behind, on the book's dedicated website.

An excerpt from the website says,

[the book] will address key trends in technology and their relevance to forgotten populations. Example case studies include: iPad apps for cognitive therapy, increased utility of virtual worlds, the use of video games to improve patient adherence, support programs through mobile platforms, the rise of Web accessibility, and the impact of federal regulations on the digital marketplace.

Technical communicators who are involved in usability and user experience, accessibility, business analysis, and design will definitely benefit from reading Kel Smith's thoughts on "the importance of embracing universal design principles throughout innovation cycles".

Catch up with Kel Smith on Twitter at @KelSmith. Get more information about the book via the book twitter handle: @digitaloutcasts or the Digital Outcast Facebook Page.

You can follow @morgan_kaufmann on Twitter or on the Morgan Kaufmann Facebook Page. You might catch some discount codes there!

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