Jeffrey Zeldman and Dan Benjamin allowing me to contribute on The Big Web Show

The big web show logo and introduction text

September 1, 2011, is a day I will not forget. It’s the day I realized that despite limitations, I can still contribute. I may have a different message today then I did pre-disability, nonetheless, I still have a voice. Thank you to Jeffrey for reading my email and asking me on the show. Thank you to Dan for being so welcoming and engaging. Thank you Faith and Candi for booking and answering my questions.

Highlights from the show:

* I was able to contribute once again
* I shed light on living with a vestibular disorder
* I managed to talk faster than Gary Vaynerchuk
* I believe I gave more shout-outs than any other guest on the show, combined

The hidden lesson:

Never short change yourself. Despite your limitations and insecurities, you can still be an active participant. Creating alternative ways to contribute will be the challenge. The journey is not as meaningful without those challenges.

Personal thought:

A few years ago I questioned taking my life. I believed living with this condition was not an option. Despite how difficult this journey has been, I have learned beautiful life lessons. I am grateful I stuck around for what is turning out to be the most important moments in my life. To God, blessings. To my fiance, I am in love with you. To my family, I will fly once again. To my vestibular family, I have the utmost respect for each of you. To my internet family, I appreciate you!

Much love,


  1. Marissa,

    It was great to hear about how you are dealing with a disability and it is obvious that God is blessing you through a thorn in your side. I have a couple friends that have RA and have to roll with the punches. It is great to hear that you are jumping into web design. I love the web and as a designer I love to make the web more functional and thinking about the end user. God bless in all that you do.



  2. Hi,
    Just heard your talk with Zeldman. Great talk.
    THERE’S A MUST FOR YOU : go to
    You’ll find ALL the great tutorials you need (on web design, CSS, HTML, photoshop, etc…(be sure to check out all their titles on their home page)
    Incredible tutorials. It’s not free, but try and test one of them : YOU WON’T REGRET IT. They’re all worth it. They save me :-)
    All the very best

    • Nicolas,

      Thank you so much! I am taking Illustrator and InDesign classes online. Both classes have offered They offer 5 training course titles. The videos are awesome. Thank you for checking in and listening to the show. Have a great weekend!

      Much love,

  3. Marissa,

    Hearing your story inspired me to be thankful for what God has given me. Thanks for sharing!

    Also, I’m a freelance web designer, and I’d love to answer any questions you have about design/freelancing/dealing with clients/etc. If I can help in any way let me know!

    • Hello Adam,

      Thank you so much for stopping by! I am so glad the show resonated with you. I am blessed to know you were able to draw inspiration from what has happened in my life. Blessings are all around us. I never thought I would see blessings again after this condition. It has been quite the contrary, blessings have and will continue to hold me up. Thanks again for showing support. Also, I appreciate you extending your hand to help. Have an awesome rest of the week.

      Much love,

  4. Just listened to the latest ep with you and I just think you’re awesome, let your creative awesomeness loose for everyone to see! Wish you all the best!

    • Mo,

      I think you’re awesome for stopping by the blog to write a comment! Thank you for your well wishes.

      Much love,

  5. Marissa,

    I am listening to the interview right now! I am a web designer (you know, self-proclaimed) with a severe disability, spinal muscular atrophy. This is just great. I have always been eager to get involved but the barriers to access are so great. In 2008, I was able to go to An Event Apart in New Orleans and it was great. But getting an accessible hotel room is so expensive. I know how you feel about feeling isolated.

    Anyway, I need to listen to the interview instead of writing this comment. :-) I’m just so excited. Nearly moved to tears that disability is being covered by the Godfather of web design himself. A blog post is definitely coming later today. And I would love to begin a conversation via email with you.

    • Blake,

      Wow, your comment is moving me to tears! Thank you so much for reaching out . Jeffrey Zeldman is really amazing. I listened to The Big Web Show episode #53, raising rates, and I felt my heart sink. Dan was emphasizing how difficult it would be to become a web designer in 2011. It was also mentioned that you have to be part of the team to be successful in this field. ”  You are never going to find a few people that can do everything”! A career in web design just started feeling out of reach. I already was unable to attend conferences (money alone would be a factor), mobile was out since I can’t afford mobile devices, solid online web design education programs felt nonexistent, and now Dan and Jeffrey are acknowledging that it would be better to join a team! Does that team even exists, and will they be willing to take me on working remotely with my lack of experience? Heck, I couldn’t even find web design agencies that were offering online internships.

      I decided to send Jeffrey an email asking for advice. Next thing you know his response was to come on the show! Wow, I was shocked. Talk about a person that walks the walk! And now I am receiving beautiful comments and emails of support.

      Blake, you and I have a connection! I am so moved by your tenacity! Keep pushing on. You are not alone and we do have a voice! Looking forward to connecting. Thanks again for this comment, it made my day!

      Much love,

  6. WOW!!! I just want to say thank you to you for doing this show. I have been suffering a vestibular disorder since last October. My frustration levels are high and my spirits are pretty low. Your interview validated what I am going through and I realized that I am not going crazy, I am not imagining all of this and yes, I need to get on with my life. I don’t know if I’ll ever get back to my regular work. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see. In the mean time, I’ll try to follow in your footsteps and try to simplify my life and be grateful for every little thing and person in it.

    Thank you so much for contributing and for giving hope to those suffering invisible ailments and, in particular, vestibular and balance disorders.

    T ; )

    P.S. The Dizziness Blues is a great goup. Please also feel free to visit and join my group on facebook. Vestibular Disorder Support Group of Durham Region.

    • Theresa,

      Thank you! It feels so awesome to hear from other members of the vestibular community. I am so sorry you are going through this. You are not crazy despite what physicians may tell you. Dizziness and imbalance are subjective and we are asking the medical community to walk by faith, believing that we are experiencing symptoms they can’t physically see. Subjective is real. Their objective should be to find a cure and greater understanding of these terrible vestibular disorders.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment! Your post really encourages me to push on at a time when I am frozen by fear. Thanks for the group invite. I have asked to join the Vestibular Disorder Support Group of Durham Region..:)

      Much love,

  7. Hey Marissa!

    Was listening to this episode today (haven’t had the time to do it earlier). I have to say I was impressed by your inner spirit and I am sure someone like you will definitely be a good web designer.

    I am also a web rookie and even though I sent you something on Twitter, I thought I should send you the links through here too.

    So for online courses and learning, you might want to check or . Not sure if they suit your needs to keep your gear, but they are worth checking for sure.

    Best of Luck to you from across the Atlantic!

    PS: The image you got on the top of your website is from Lisbon, where I was born, extra kudos for that :)

    • Hello Jorge,

      Thank you for your kind words! Also, I appreciate the resources. P2PU seems like a very interesting site. Thanks again for your support from across the Atlantic! Have an awesome rest of the week!

      p.s. Portugal seems like a beautiful place to be!

      Much love,

  8. I just listened to your podcast, Marissa. I sense great enthusiasm and limitless potential. Your website is beautiful. I love the comment form. :) Looking forward to more beautiful web design from you.

    • Thank you Cline for your comments! This is a free WordPress theme. WordPress has some awesome free themes. Hope you have an awesome rest of the week.

      Much love,

  9. I heard you on The Big Web Show today and I can tell you that I understand what you are going through with your vestibular disorder. Thank you for sharing your struggle with us.

    In 1989, my sophomore year in college, I was struck by chronic and debilitating vertigo. A few days after it started my father found me in my dorm room, too weak to even walk unaided. I lost so much fluid with nausea and vomiting and was so severely dehydrated I was immediately hospitalized. I went through a battery of tests to figure out what was going on but the specialist I saw couldn’t provide an explanation. The doctor diagnosed me as having benign positional vertigo (since the dizziness would worsen drastically when my head was tilted back to to the left).

    I continued to deal with the constant dizziness and vertigo and about a year and a half later the specialist called me and suggested it might be a condition triggered by an allergic response. He prescribed a steroid based nasal inhaler. I was skeptical but in a few weeks the symptoms lessened greatly. Over the years I still had strong bouts of vertigo but after using the nasal inhaler it would eventually subside. As time has gone on it has lessened to the point that I might experience a little vertigo during the fall and spring but have had no need to use the nasal inhaler.

    I share this mostly because I can empathize with your plight. It is such a difficult thing to deal with day in and day out. But I also wanted to share this in case it is not a route for treatment that your doctors have explored. While this might not be the answer for you, I’m hopeful there might eventually be answers for you and everyone who deals with this condition.

    I also wanted to thank you for being on the show. I’m a web designer as well and it was so enlightening to hear about accessibility from a completely unexpected perspective.

    I want to encourage you in your endeavor to learn web design and in your budding career. You already have a lot to offer the field.


    • Chad,

      I really appreciate you reaching out and sharing your story! That must have been a crazy time for you and your family. I am so glad that you have found relief. It has never been suggested to me to try a steroid based nasal inhaler. I will for sure bring it up to the docs and see what they say. I’m mainly dealing with disequilibrium vs vertigo. However, any relief of these symptoms would be much welcomed!

      Thank you so much for your kind words and well wishes. I have a soft spot for the web design community. Everyone has been so great. Have an awesome rest of the week and blessings to you!

      Much love,

  10. Just listened to you on Dan and Jeffrey’s show, wonderful stuff. I wish you the best of luck on your path, you need never be lonely.

    I work with Drupal ( and find it a very inclusive community of web developers. You may be interested in some of the work by Katherine Lynch ( another Drupal (and WordPress) developer who has an interest in web accessibility. I listened to a few of her talks* and she seems pretty interesting.


    If you are interested in learning to use Drupal there are a ton of resources lurking out there^ email me if you’re keen. Sounds like you have plenty of study going on at the moment though :)

    I live in Australia and am pretty far away from all the glitzy conferences and meetups that seem to happen all the time. I have found that I can stay abreast of all the developments online. All the conferences generally post the talks online, the community talks on Twitter, IRC, forums and blogs and there are a lot of useful podcasts. Luckily I have found some local developers doing the same stuff as me. Keep seeking inspiration.

    Best of all there seems to be plenty of work around for Drupal devs at the moment.

    ^ has a great podcast and some good free tutorials as well as their paid offering –

    My profile –

    Sorry if this sounds a bit disjointed – was listening as I was posting….


    • Hello Ruben

      Thank you for listening to the show and showing support. Also, thank you for the resources. I am looking forward to learning more about Katherine Lynch. I am starting to realize it may be best to specialize. You make great points about learning from podcast, twitter, IRC forums, etc. I will for sure keep seeking inspiration. Thanks again and have a great one!

      Much love,

  11. Hello, Marissa
    I was wondering if your situation has improved since “The Big Web Show”.
    I don’t have a disability. I am having to learn web development for a career change. My wife leaves the country on business trips and I watch the kids.. so no normal job for me. I have learned a few basic things. You can’t learn it then do it.. You learn a little.. then start doing it.. and look up what you need to as you go. You can never stop learning.. the whole time. I’m starting off with CSS3 and HTML5 and jquery so I can start designing and turn my designs into a web page. Then I’m going to work on integration with CMS systems like WordPress and Joomla and Drupal. I work on oDesk and I’m starting to get some basic web design jobs.
    Best of luck to you!

    • Hello Matthew. Thank you for your comments! I would love to believe this condition will change. After living with this condition for 6 years it looks like I will be in it for the long haul. I am pushing forward to remain positive. Thank you for your well wishes. I wish you all the best on your web design career journey! :)

      Much love,

  12. Pingback: Chronic Illness Links « sunshine and chaos

  13. Hey there,

    I listened to the Big Web Show episode on which you spoke and enjoyed it. I also had a couple of thoughts to share:

    1. Turn your perspective into a unique advantage.

    Huh? What struck me is that the questions from the hosts and the chat room centered understandably around “What is it like for you?” You yourself struggled to describe it. Although the need to evaluate web sites from a perspective such as yours is probably limited, you could provide a service to fill that gap. I’m talking about a website usability/evaluation service. This is eminently doable from a telecommute standpoint; check out

    Should you strike out on your own in this regard, forming your own business. I’d say no, but you may want to contact testing firms to see if there are relationships that can be formed.

    Which leads me to the next thought – Section 508 compliance.

    2. Although I am not an expert at all in 508, there are many sources. Basically it is a law that government websites must abide by that requires a certain level of accessibility. There are firms that specialize in auditing and evaluating this sort of compliance. Consider contacting them, again to see if there are relationships to form.

    The one I want you to reach to is, and be sure to read the INC magazine article about the founder and how she started. You’ll find it hits close to home.

    LASTLY, as you mutter aloud, “I want to learn web design and build sites – not test somebody elses!!” – let me say that testing sites is an ideal way to see how others do it and evaluate, literally, the standards and their implementation.

    Good luck. If you have any questions or need clarification, send a private email. Regards. KJM

    • Hello Kevin,

      I appreciate your thoughtful response. You have shared some valuable information. I am looking forward to one day being in a position to help my community. Thanks again and have a great rest of the week.

      Much love,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *