Social Media and Disability

More and more the elderly and people with disabilities are embracing social media. With this in mind there are initiatives to make the web more universally accessible. Whether or not these initiatives will be effective is debatable, but it’s clear that social media technology can be used for more than just meaningless status updates – it can actually accommodate meaningful community.

Common Myths about Web Accessibility and the Disabled

· The Disabled Are Not Web Users – For starters, the most obvious myth is that disabled people don’t use the web. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In the disabled community, the web, particularly the social web, is more than just a matter of convenience. Members of the disabled community use it as a vehicle for meaningful conversation, education and shopping. In the same way the Braun Corporation literally mobilizes the disabled, social media keeps the disabled and elderly moving in the virtual world.

· Disabled Web Users Are High Maintenance – The guiding principle behind web accessibility is simple; don’t assume everyone has the same user experience on a web page. The second myth surrounding the disabled and the web is that the task of design and development is far too difficult for the average web designer. The big idea behind web accessibility is creating a user experience that is universal, platform independent and easy for everyone to use.

· Web Accessibility Standards Only Help the Disabled – It is true that web accessibility standards are definitely geared toward the disabled community. But to say that it only helps the disabled is disingenuous at best. Accessibility technology is nothing new, and has always had an air of universal appeal. Everything from keyboards to curbside cutouts to closed captioning serves the greater population as being helpful in general. Universal web accessibility achieves three main objectives:

  • It ensures compatibility with the latest technology (smart phones, tablet PCs, etc.,)
  • It ensures web pages function with any type of data connection speed.
  • It ensures that pages load quickly for any type of computer or device setup.

The Government Steps In to Help

Even state and local government organizations see an opportunity to better care for the disabled through new technology. The rebranded Disability.gov, formerly DisabilityInfo.gov, now features educational content from over 22 government organizations seeking to equip and train disabled people and their caretakers on how to use new technology to their benefit. This includes everything from smart phone tutorials to Twitter and Facebook How-Tos, information on new upgrades to assistance technology solutions and an online discussion forum that encourages active user participation.

Summary

These new technology initiatives aimed at the disabled community not only improve their quality of life, but they also improve the web as a whole. Since social media is now an integral part of the web, the effects of web accessibility will be widespread and will benefit all web users directly. By ensuring that the web is accessible to as many people as possible, we can ensure that everyone has the opportunity to express themselves and connect with others.

Today in a guest post from the wonderful Joseph Baker, a true friend to The Engaging Brand. Joe works at Professional Intern

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