Cynthia Waddell

Cynthia Waddell passed away Wednesday, April 3, 2013. She was a tireless advocate for persons with disabilities. Cynthia was the Executive Director of the International Center for Disability Resources on the Internet. I heard her speak many times at the CSUN International Conference on Technology and Persons with Disabilities. She participated in the formation of Section 508, and she went on to focus on Information and Communications Technology, speaking at the United Nations and all around the world.

Hall Meetings

To me the best part of a conference is talking with people. Meetings in ballrooms and hallways are often very productive. So it was no surprise when, in 2009, after Cynthia delivered another wonderful presentation at the CSUN conference, that I found myself at the front of the room talking with her. Glenda Sims @goodwitch soon joined us.

VPAT Means What?

One thing led to another and the topic of Voluntary Product Accessibility Templates (VPAT) came up. A VPAT describes how a product or service addresses U.S. Section 508 guidelines. I noted that in my dealings with vendors who had VPATs I had come to see them as generally divergent from the testing that I was doing. Cynthia and Glenda agreed. Soon we were tossing around ideas for a more accurate backronym for VPAT. In short order we had a satisfactory work product. VPAT, we said, actually stands for Very Packaged Alternate Truth.


Cynthia, for all of her many wonderful accomplishments, was still very approachable. She often took time to stop and talk about what she perceived as the pressing needs of the world for accessibility. She was truly a visionary, following her passion, doing her life’s work in a focused, purposeful fashion. I’ll always think of her when I waver on my path, and I’ll always remember that moment of fun Glenda and I shared with her.