Meet Glenda Sims on Ada Lovelace Day

Glenda Sims is a whirlwind of accomplishment in information technology, web education, museum accessibility, web accessibility and web standards. She’s someone who makes things change and gets things done, and the worthy honoree of attention on Ada Lovelance Day.

Ada Lovelace Dayis an international day of blogging (videologging, podcasting, comic drawing etc.) to draw attention to the achievements of women in technology and science.

Take a visual tour through Glenda’s life, from her childhood in Texas to her current position as Senior Systems Analyst in Information Technology Services at the University of Texas at Austin.

Her blog is Oz: the blog of glenda sims (the goodwitch) and she’s @goodwitch on Twitter. The rest of her information is listed at Flavors/goodwitch.

Before we get into the professional activities that made her an Ada Lovelace topic, let Glenda tell you a bit about her personal life.

I’m happily married (20+ years) to the love of my life, Scott. We have two of the most wonderful children on the planet (both boys). I am a native Texan. Born in Houston. Bachelor’s Degrees in Psychology and Business Management from the University of Texas at Austin. Began my career as a human resources professional at UT Austin. Had an opportunity to become a programmer (for Human Resources) so I could automated the tasks that could be done by computers, allowing employees to use their brains for more useful tasks.

I love to read. I’m really into kid-lit and discovering new authors with my youngest son. Last year we had a blast reading almost all of the book son the Texas Blue Bonnet Reading List.

One of my favorite things to do as a kid was to making jumping origami frogs…and yes…I still love to make them.

At UT-Austin, Glenda works on Team Web and help supports the central web site for the University.  She is the self-appointed web standards and accessibility advocate at UT. Her work on campus includes museum technology, usability, accessibility and universal design. She’s currently leading the project to redesign UT’s mobile web site.

She works with Knowbility, an accessibility training and advocacy organization based in Austin, Texas. She’s been an accessibility consultant, judge and trainer with Knowbility since 2001. She said,

My dear friends at Knowbility are a huge part of who I am today.  Sharron Rush, John Slatin, Jim Thatcher, Jim Allan and the whole accessibility crew in Austin have filled me with the burning desire to make sure that the web is available to everyone, regardless of their disabilities. Knowbility is like family to me.

I know Glenda best through her work with Web Standards Project, the InterAct curriculum, and OWEA (Open Web Education Alliance)—all projects I’m involved with myself. She’s an influential and dynamic leader in these projects and is moving mountains to bring change to web education. I asked her how she got into this area.

My journey into Web Standards started in December 2000 when I asked if I could become the web accessibility expert for UT. I was quickly introduced to Dr. John Slatin, an international accessibility expert and faculty member on our campus. John and I were an incredible force on campus. We shared new techniques, brainstormed creative solutions, developed training classes, policies and guidelines for campus and ran accessibility competitions for our webmasters.  We weren’t merely satisfied with teaching the “how” of accessibility…we wanted to build a culture of universal design on campus and created accessibility evangelists. My years working with John were priceless.

John introduced me to Sharron Rush and Knowbility in early 2001. We become the 3 Accessibility Amigos.

In SXSWi 2005, I was preparing to speak on an accessibility panel with James Craig, Ian Lloyd and Derek Featherstone. As we worked on our game plan for the panel, I was introduced to a whole new crew of web and accessibility advocates from the Web Standards Project. As I sat and listened to the vision and plans of the WaSP members I felt deeply inspired to take my work to the next level. Up until 2005 I was focused on making things accessible here in Austin. After SXSW this year I realized that I wanted to act globally as well as locally. I set a personal and private goal for myself. I wanted to become a WaSP.

In 2006 I had an opportunity to volunteer to work on a project that Molly was kick-starting called the WaSP International Liaison Group (ILG). Steph Troeth and I were asked to co-lead this project. I had the honor to work for more than 2 years on this project with an incredible group of web professionals who spent countless volunteer hours spreading the message (and the techniques) for ensuring an open web.

Glenda delights in telling the story of how InterAct and the now-forming Open Web Education Alliance came into being at SXSW in Austin. Here’s how she describes it.

At SXSWi 2008 I met the energetic Aarron Walter at the Red Eye Fly. Aarron had this idea that what the web really needed was a web education curriculum framework. His vision to build this framework as a way for educators, industry professionals and students to build and sustain a living curriculum gave me goosebumps. Within 24 hours of my conversation with Aarron, I was approached by Chris Mills who was already working on a similar and complimentary project (the Opera Web Standards Curriculum). Then Leslie Jensen-Inman and I were having a conversation where she was focused on solving the challenges of teaching the web and preparing students for real-world expectations.

I shook my head and said…”this is the magic of SXSW”…and realized I had to get these three people together. The next round of conversations took place in the middle of a bowling alley (at Geeks Love Bowling) and continued throughout the conference. The result of these conversations (and the hard work of many dedicated individuals can be seen at

Every time I talk to these people, whether it is in person, Skype or email, I’m filled with energy and excitement of what we can accomplish when we pull together.

In early 2009, John Allsopp was hosting Web Directions North in Denver. John has heard about the InterAct Curriculum and brought many members of the InterAct team together to host a Ed Directions Day in Denver. The synergy that occurred in Denver was off the charts. What happens when you add equal parts of WaSP/InterAct members + Passionate Educators + Web Industry Visionaries + Brilliant W3C Minds? You get the magic we call the Open Web Education Alliance.

A completely different facet of Glenda’s personality is her love for art museums. She said,

I’m deeply and madly in love with art museums.  And there is nothing I enjoy more than making museums and their collections accessible. I have had the great honor of working on a number of projects with the Blanton Museum of Art. My favorite project was developing an interactive handheld tour (iTour) for a research project. The research question:  Does having access to rich multimedia (on a handheld device) enhance or detract from the experience of exploring a work of art inside a museum gallery. Our research paper is published. The iTour project lead to a string of exciting adventures with Anne Manning, Dan Updegrove and Eric Guaglione.

Web Education Rocks
If you attended SXSW Interactive this year, I hope you ran into Glenda there. She was on a Web Education Rocks panel with the WaSP  team.  She says,

I have the great fortune of living in Austin where the amazing SXSW Interactive Conference occurs every year. What is SXSWi? It is like spring break for geeks…where geeks come to be with their own and dream beyond the edges of the horizon…and then…filled with some magically SXSW energy…actually turn those dreams into reality. SXSW is nothing short of magical.

She works to make the web accessible and she works to train the future professionals of the web. So, what does she look for in a web page?

There are two types of sites I love:  1)Super useful and usable sites  2)Immersive sites that make me think in an entirely new way.

One of my favorite “super useful” sites is Basecamp. If Basecamp were alive I would want to marry it.

One of my favorite “see things differently sites” is SFMoMA’s Art Scope.

I don’t think I look at websites like normal humans. I tend to turn websites inside, outside, upside down. I’m a big believer in the principles of creating a delightful user experience for the end user.

That is a fitting last comment from Glenda Sims. A big thank you to Glenda for her help and cooperation.

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