With the COVID-10 pandemic continuing to rage, social media and the internet provide access to family, friends, and loved ones for those who are isolated. Accessibility and inclusion have never been so crucial for those in the disability community.
Over 30 years ago, advocates fought hard for the rights of individuals with disabilities culminating in the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which guarantees access to jobs, public accommodations, government services, public transportation, and telecommunications.
Social media’s benefits for individuals with disabilities
The dedication of websites and platforms is imperative to keeping up with assistive technology. The field has developed quickly to keep up with the latest developments in social media and many networks now contain quick access to apps with games, videos, and quick access to music.
Opengate residents’ favorite apps are those that pertain to social stories and learning social skills. For entertainment purposes, our residents use tablets to listen to music, watch music videos, face-to-face contact through video conferencing with family members, and email friends.
During the 2020 election our individuals used the internet and social media to gather information about candidates in order to make an informed decision on election day.
There are still user hurdles to overcome, and people still struggle, especially those with dexterity issues. Speech to text functions are helpful but often need to be edited, leading the person right back to their original problem. One site offers tip sheets for each platform to overcome some of the apparent obstacles.
The future of social media access for the disabled community
Social media’s value for those with disabilities lies in its potential to open doors of opportunity that otherwise may have been unknown. Information gathering and dissemination occurs faster than ever before, and social media is a catalyst.
Smartphones and tablets contain built-in accessibility features, and with the touch of a button, allow greater ease of navigation and use. One can easily change the text size, use VoiceOver, and AssistiveTouch if difficulty touching the screen.
Not only do individuals with disabilities use social media tools, but they also use them for many of the same reasons as everyone else: to stay connected to friends and family; to network and find jobs; to play games; to share links, pictures, and videos; to follow their favorite product, brand, celebrity or cause; and many other reasons. –Digitalgov.Gov
Social media is here to stay and will continue to evolve. Inclusion for those with disabilities is just as important now as in the early days of the ADA. We must strive to keep accessibility to opportunities open to everyone by developing better assistive technology and encouraging product managers to design sites with better accessibility.