From facebook to twitter, blogs, flickr and Klout, social media gives most people more collaboration, conversation and online connections than ever before. For those with disabilities it opens doors between isolated individuals who are physically and often emotionally detached. For me, the only time I get to interact in-person with others who have a prosthetic eye is in the ocularist’s waiting room. Sites such as LostEye.com (love the celebrity list) and it’s corresponding facebook group are creating connections with disabled groups who may otherwise have never reached out to others with the same challenges. That’s powerful.
Although social media is breaking down down barriers in the world of advertising and disability it still may pose hurdles and create other walls for marginalized groups facing physical challenges. After you read this sentence, try and close your eyes, reach for your smartphone and send me a tweet. Squint until things are blurry and try to see who’s tagged in a picture posted on your facebook wall. Don’t move either of your arms and try to update your linkedin profile. It’s tough, if not impossible in these situations. For some people separated with challenges, these new connections remain disconnecting and frustrating. There are work-arounds such as http://www.qwitter-client.net/ a twitter resource for the blind. Resources for disabilities ranging from deafness, paralysis and visual impairments are out there. Granted I’m a little slower than most with social media – it takes just a bit more time for me to read and respond.
If we can overcome some of these challenges, social media, more than TV, radio, newspapers print or even websites has the power to create meaningful bonds and integrate advertising messages with disability. Even though social media may be a watershed resource, this doesn’t mean that the disabled minority needs to continue to have little to no representation in traditional advertising channels.
Pundits have shared their thoughts about minorities and social media as it relates to racial differences, but there has not been much of a conversation surrounding disability. Do big brand corporations and advertising agencies consider disability when developing social media plans? If not, what can we do to encourage at least starting to talk about integrating this minority? If disabled groups are sharing in the social platform – let’s hear from them!