Joe was my dad. He was born in 1917 and raised on the wild Atlantic coast in Ballyheigue, County Kerry, Ireland. When my dad’s family slaughtered an animal, other families would come and help, and take parts they could use. When another family did the same, his family would go help, and take parts they could use in their turn. The community shared.
Last spring I visited Ballyheige and stayed in the old schoolhouse my dad attended. The children were required to bring a piece of coal each day, to feed the communal fire. If a neighbor had a piece of wood, and you needed that piece of wood for your currach, you might offer to help two days tending lobster pots in exchange. That’s the way my dad lived all his life, even after he emigrated and came to New Jersey. He always sought ways to help people, to be of service to others.
We called my dad Joe, and me Joseph, to make a distinction between us. All my life I’ve maintained that distinction. I’ve felt that try as I might, I could never quite live up to his example. I felt that I couldn’t fill his shoes.
I recently changed my Twitter handle. It was @csunwebmaster. I wanted something personal, not tied to an institution or job title. I’ve been doing accessibility since 1999. Accessibility is my passion. So that’s part of my new handle: accessible. Jessi R @canadian_diva replied “@AccessibleJoe you changed your twitter handle! glad to know you’re accessible haha.” Well yes, I am accessible: easy to talk to or get along with.
Last night after Accessibility Camp Los Angeles I was talking with John Foliot @johnfoliot and Dennis Lembree @dennisl about Joseph and Joe. John said he always had a tendency to want to call me Joe and we talked about that. I told him about my dad, and how I had come to terms with being worthy of Joe. John said the handle is approachable. I like that.
It’s remarkable how many people can’t spell Joseph. They tend to spell it Joesph. A long time ago I determined that I would give restaurant staff the name Joe when making a reservation. Joe is easier to spell, and certainly much easier to hear in a crowd. So the second part of my handle is Joe because it is easily spelled and understood by more people. Isn’t this what the essence of accessibility is?
Here’s to you, dad, I hope I’m living up to your example.