Social media and disability

Deanne Newton
Social media like Facebook and Twitter is a great way to keep in touch with friends. But it is also used in other important ways. Facebook is used to show support for the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Disability organisations use it to let people know about important issues and events. Social media can also be a great way for people with a disability to get their opinions heard. In Britain thousands of people used Twitter to show they were unhappy with the government which was thinking about making payment cuts for people with a disability.
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Deanne Newton on 18/10/2012
Three young women sitting besides each other and using laptops.
Girls using macs

Social media serves many purposes.

Social media like Facebook and Twitter can be a great means of keeping in touch with friends and family, or communicating with your favourite celebrities or organisations. For some people with disabilities, communication can be a challenge so social media is a valuable tool. However individuals with a disability and disability organisations have begun to use social media not just as an outlet to connect with others but to promote disability causes in useful and innovative ways.

Many people with disabilities use blogs, Twitter and Facebook to communicate with others and express their thoughts and feelings. For many it is an opportunity to show people that they are just like everyone else and to support causes they care about.

Organisations and creating community

A leading Australian organisation that uses Facebook and Twitter frequently to communicate with people with disabilities and their families is Yooralla. Yooralla uses social media as a way of promoting its community initiatives and publicising topics of interest to the community. Our our DiVine website also uses Twitter to let people know about the latest articles released on the site.

Protesting via social media

Another disability activist is Sue Marsh, author of the blog Diary of a Benefit Scrounger. Sue is well-known in the British media and was one of the co-ordinators of the successful Spartacus Twitter campaign. The campaign began when about 200 disability activists in Britain protested against welfare cuts to disability payments outlined in a government report. They protested by using the twitter hashtag #spartacusreport.

The report had been largely ignored by the mainstream media but over the course of one day in January this year thousands of people tweeted the tag which caused it to trend on the site. It was particularly successful after it was re-tweeted by the actor Steven Fry and other well known identities.

The campaign was subsequently picked up by the mainstream media and led to the defeat of several proposed reforms. The attention drawn by this campaign opened up public discussion generally about welfare reform.

In Australia, Facebook is used to express support for disability causes in Australia like the NDIS and to form online disability support groups.

A powerful tool

Social media can be a powerful tool for people with a disability, who often don't have a strong voice in society to get their opinions heard. It is a great thing there is now such a forum to inform the wider public about these views. And that people with a disability have employed their intelligence and initiative to use social media to make a difference.

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