People of WordPress: Amanda Rush

You’ve probably heard that WordPress is open source software, and may know that it’s created and run by volunteers. WordPress enthusiasts share many examples of how WordPress changed people’s lives for the better. This monthly series shares some of those lesser-known, amazing stories.

Meet Amanda Rush from Augusta, Georgia, USA.

Amanda Rush is a WordPress advocate with a visual disability. She first started using computers in 1985, which enabled her to turn in homework to her sighted teachers. Screen reader technology for Windows was in its infancy then, so she worked in DOS almost exclusively.

After graduating high school, Amanda went to college to study computer science, programming with DOS-based tools since compilers for Windows were still inaccessible. As part of her computer science course of study, she learned HTML which began her career in web development.

How Amanda got started with WordPress

Amanda began maintaining a personal website, and eventually began publishing her own content using LiveJournal. However, controlling the way the page around her content looked was hard, and she soon outgrew the hosted solution.

So in 2005, Amanda bought customerservant.com, set up a very simple CMS for blogging, and started publishing there. She accepted the lack of design and content, and lack of easy customization because she wasn’t willing to code her own solution. Nor did she want to move to another hosted solution, as she liked being able to customize her own site, as well as publish content.

Hebrew dates led her to WordPress

At some point, Amanda was looking for an easy way to display the Hebrew dates alongside the Gregorian dates on her blog entries. Unfortunately, the blogging software she was using at the time, did not offer customization options at that level. She decided to research alternative solutions and came across a WordPress plugin that did just that. 

The fact that WordPress would not keep her locked into a visual editor, used themes to customize styling, and offered ways to mark up content, immediately appealed to Amanda. She decided to give it a go.

Accessibility caused her to dive deeper

When the software Amanda used at work became completely inaccessible, she started learning about WordPress. While she was learning about this new software, Web 2.0 was introduced. The lack of support for it in the screen reader she used meant that WordPress administration was completely inaccessible. To get anything done, Amanda needed to learn to find her way in WordPress’ file structure.

Eventually Amanda started working as an independent contractor for the largest screen reader developer in the market, Freedom Scientific. She worked from home every day and hacked on WordPress after hours.

Unfortunately Amanda hit a rough patch when her job at Freedom Scientific ended. Using her savings she undertook further studies for various Cisco and Red Hat certifications, only to discover that the required testing for these certifications were completely inaccessible. She could study all she wanted, but wasn’t able to receive grades to pass the courses.

She lost her financial aid, her health took a turn for the worse, she was diagnosed with Lupus, and lost her apartment. Amanda relocated to Augusta where she had supportive friends who offered her a couch and a roof over her head.

But Amanda refused to give up

Amanda continued to hack WordPress through all of this. It was the only stable part of her life. She wanted to help make WordPress accessible for people with disabilities, and in 2012 joined the  WordPress Accessibility Team. Shortly after that, she finally got her own place to live, and started thinking about what she was going to do with the rest of her working life.

Listening to podcasts led her to take part in WordSesh, which was delivered completely online and enabled Amanda to participate without needing to travel. She began to interact with WordPress people on Twitter, and continued to contribute to the community as part of the WordPress Accessibility Team. Things had finally started to pick up.

Starting her own business

In 2014, Amanda officially launched her own business, Customer Servant Consultancy. Since WordPress is open source, and becoming increasingly accessible, Amanda could modify WordPress to build whatever she wanted and not be at the mercy of web and application developers who know nothing about accessibility. And if she got stuck, she could tap into the community and its resources.

Improving her circumstances and becoming more self-sufficient means Amanda was able to take back some control over her life in general. She was able to gain independence and create her own business despite being part of the blind community, which has an 80% unemployment rate. 

In her own words:

We’re still fighting discrimination in the workplace, and we’re still fighting for equal access when it comes to the technology we use to do our jobs. But the beauty of WordPress and its community is that we can create opportunities for ourselves.

I urge my fellow blind community members to join me inside this wonderful thing called WordPress. Because it will change your lives if you let it.

Amanda Rush, entrepreneur

This post is based on an article originally published on HeroPress.com, a community initiative created by Topher DeRosia. HeroPress highlights people in the WordPress community who have overcome barriers and whose stories would otherwise go unheard.

Meet more WordPress community members over at HeroPress.com!

People of WordPress: Ugyen Dorji

You’ve probably heard that WordPress is open source software, and may know that it’s created and run by volunteers. WordPress enthusiasts share many examples of how WordPress changed people’s lives for the better. This monthly series shares some of those lesser-known, amazing stories.

Meet Ugyen Dorji from Bhutan

Ugyen lives in Bhutan, a landlocked country situated between two giant neighbors, India to the south and China to the north. He works for ServMask Inc and is responsible for the Quality Assurance process for All-in-One WP Migration plugin.

He believes in the Buddhist teaching that “the most valuable service is one rendered to our fellow humans,” and his contributions demonstrates this through his WordPress translation work and multi-lingual support projects for WordPress.

Bhutanese contributors to the Dzongkha locale on WordPress Translation Day

How Ugyen started his career with WordPress

Back in 2016, Ugyen was looking for a new job after his former cloud company ran into financial difficulties.

During one interview he was asked many questions about WordPress and, although he had a basic understanding of WordPress, he struggled to give detailed answers. After that interview he resolved to develop his skills and learn as much about WordPress as he could. 

A few months passed and he received a call from ServMask Inc, who had developed a plugin called All-in-One WP Migration. They offered him a position, fulfilling his wish to work with WordPress full-time. And because of that, Ugyen is now an active contributor to the WordPress community.

WordCamp Bangkok 2018

WordCamp Bangkok 2018 was a turning point event for Ugyen. WordCamps are a great opportunity to meet WordPress community members you don’t otherwise get to know, and he was able to attend his first WordCamp through the sponsorship of his company.

The first day of WordCamp Bangkok was a Contributor Day, where people volunteer to work together to contribute to the development of WordPress. Ugyen joined the Community team to have conversations with WordPress users from all over the world. He was able to share his ideas for supporting new speakers, events and organizers to help build the WordPress community in places where it is not yet booming.

During the main day of the event, Ugyen managed a photo booth for speakers, organizers, and attendees to capture their memories of WordCamp. He also got to take some time out to attend several presentations during the conference. What particularly stuck in Ugyen’s mind was learning that having a website content plan has been shown to lead to 100% growth in business development.

Co-Organizing Thimphu‘s WordPress Meetup

After attending WordCamp Bangkok 2018 as well as a local Meetup event, Ugyen decided to introduce WordPress to his home country and cities. 

As one of the WordPress Translation Day organizers, he realized that his local language, Dzongkha, was not as fully translated as other languages in the WordPress Core Translation. That is when Ugyen knew that he wanted to help build his local community. He organized Thimphu’s first WordPress Meetup to coincide with WordPress Translation Day 4, and it was a huge success!

Like all WordPress Meetups, the Thimpu WordPress Meetup is an easygoing, volunteer-organized, non-profit meetup which covers everything related to WordPress. But it also keeps in mind the Bhutanese Gross National Happiness four pillars by aiming to preserve and promote their unique culture and national language. 

Big dreams get accomplished one step at a time

Ugyen has taken an active role in preserving his national language by encouraging his community to use WordPress, including Dzongkha bloggers, online Dzongkha news outlets, and government websites.

And while Ugyen has only been actively involved in the community for a short period, he has contributed much to the WordPress community, including:

  • becoming a Translation Contributor for WordPress Core Translation for Dzongkha;
  • participating in the Global WordPress Translation Day 4 Livestream and organizing team;
  • inviting WordPress Meetup Thimphu members and WordPress experts from other countries to join the local Slack instance;
  • encouraging ServMask Inc. to become an event sponsor;
  • providing the Dzongkha Development Commission the opportunity to involve their language experts.

When it comes to WordPress, Ugyen particularly focuses on encouraging local and international language WordPress bloggers; helping startups succeed with WordPress; and sharing what he has learned from WordPress with his Bhutanese WordPress community.

As a contributor, Ugyen hopes to accomplish even more for the Bhutan and Asian WordPress Communities. His dreams for his local community are big, including teaching more people about open source, hosting a local WordCamp, and helping to organize WordCamp Asia in 2020 — all while raising awareness of his community.


This post is based on an article originally published on HeroPress.com, a community initiative created by Topher DeRosia. HeroPress highlights people in the WordPress community who have overcome barriers and whose stories would otherwise go unheard.

Meet more WordPress community members over at HeroPress.com!