The Florida Disability Access and Awareness Foundation creates media to promote empathy and empowerment for the disability community. Our ultimate goal is to help create a more inclusive society where those with physical and intellectual challenges are treated with respect, and their needs are understood.
Ralph Strzalkowski, President
I was born in Poland with cerebral palsy, and have had to use a wheelchair all my life. My parents were always loving and supportive, but in Poland there are few systems in place to help people with disabilities. I felt limited by my physicality there, unwelcome and unable to participate. There was no future that I could imagine for myself.
So I came to America, where I was able to become a lawyer and get a fresh start. I love this country because laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act have given me opportunities I never would have had before, and empowered me to lead an active, independent life. But there are still places where I feel limited, and even here in America, many people show little understanding toward those with disabilities.
I started the Florida Disability Access and Awareness Foundation in recognition of a problem with how individuals with disabilities are received in the community. I wanted to improve that perception, dispel stereotypes and prejudice, and promote empathy and inclusion. In today’s society we need to use tools that speak to the majority of people to be effective. That’s why FDAAF uses new media projects and technology to change how people think and feel about disabilities.
Zachary Taylor, Development Lead
I come from a hearing family. When I was halfway through the 3rd grade I fell ill. I was misdiagnosed with the flu that later turned out to be meningitis. One day my hearing and balance both disappeared. I couldn’t walk very well under my own power much less ride a bike. A cochlear implant eventually aided my balance struggles on a bicycle.
From there I finished high school and obtained two degrees in electronics from a local community college. I’ve always judged games on whether they had subtitles or not. This interest in accessibility led to me making my own levels for an existing game before moving on to Full Sail to obtain my BS in Game Design.
At Full Sail I designed a variety of games, even a controller for those limited to one hand, with a different team each time. When audio cues were discussed I was always that person in groups who would ask, “But what if the player can’t hear or is playing with the volume muted?” I also played a direct role in the captioning and accurate captioning of content for the Game Design program. It was likely fitting that I became the first online graduate for their Game Design program.
While there I became involved with FDAAF and continue working diligently with a fantastic team to this day to provide more access and awareness for those like me.
Michael Bridges, Audio Engineer
I’m serving as an audio engineer for FDAAF. I have a background in music recording and production along with sound design and have experience working on audio for music, film, and video games. I’m a graduate of the Carnegie Mellon School of Music’s Audio Recording & Production certificate program and the founder and lead engineer of SoundTruss Productions. I believe that sound is an extremely powerful part of the human experience and, as such, a uniquely effective story telling tool — when I saw an opportunity to utilize this tool in support of such an important and, unfortunately, often overlooked cause, I was really happy to become involved in doing whatever I could to help tell the story that Ralph and the rest of The FDAAF had to share.
Paul Brophy, Corporate Secretary and Treasurer
I emigrated from Ireland to Florida and after moving from one job to another, and started a successful family business in the City of Gainesville which I have called home the last 22 years. When building out my bar in popular downtown Gainesville, I ensured the entire buildout was accessible by persons with disabilities. I joined Florida Disability Access and Awareness Foundation as the Corporate Secretary/Treasurer in 2013 and am a spoken and active advocate for Persons with Disabilities. I left my business to pursue my interests. I started working with the State of Florida’s Agency for People with Disabilities in 2013 where I am still employed. I have personal experience and knowledge of the difficulty that persons with disabilities experience when trying to love what life has to offer with the minimum of distress.