“The introduction of new technologies often creates forms of exclusion for people with disabilities”
This statement, I believe, was written by Goggin and Newell (2007) in specific reference to the way in which new technologies are not physically accessible to those with disabilities. However, when I read this statement, my mind wandered in the direction of social exclusion rather than physical exclusion. Stella Young, in “Disability is not a cute little joke”, featured on Ramp Up offers an insightful perspective on disability. Stella claims there are two ways to speak about disability; the ‘Real’ and the ‘Not Real’. The ‘Not Real’ kind describes the way that society often uses disability as a verb to describe idiocy, or something of low value.
This led me to think about the definition of disability, which embarrassingly I have only recently learnt. It surprised me to hear that disability is not the condition or limited capacity of an individual, but instead it is what happens to people with impairments in their encounters and dwelling in society and the world (Goggin 2009), in this case, the exclusion from the new world of social networking and the communication within these networks.
This lack of accessibility to social networking sites for disabled persons was recently discussed on the ABC Radio show Life Matters with Dr Scott Hollier and after listening – and learning that over half the population of Australia now use Facebook and Twitter has an accessibility rating of 0%- I found myself interested to see the presence of ‘Not Real’ discriminatory language regarding disability on these websites.
Logging onto my Twitter attempt I typed #retarded into the Search box. Instantly, hundreds of posts appeared, not one that I could see related to any kind of ‘Real disability.’ Similarly, my search on Facebook provided a large range of “humorous” pages dedicated to the ‘Not Real’ disability Stella spoke of in her blog, with “Eating so much you become temporarily disabled” ‘liked’ by 119 users and ‘Being the Less Retarded one in a relationship’ with a whopping 63,036 likes. Whilst joining these groups does not necessarily mean the users hold discriminatory views it does show the ‘normalisation’ of the ‘Not Real’ disability and using these terms in a humorous context.
How fair is this type of ‘normalisation’ when the people we are inadvertently speaking of cannot see it?
Would this type of unconscious discrimination become less prevalent if social media websites were made more accessible to the disabled community?
Will social media become universally accessible?
Will this type of ‘Not Real’ disability disappear?
Only time will tell…
Goggin, G 2009, ‘Disability and the ethics of listening’, Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, vol.23, no.4, pp489-502
Goggin, G & Newell, C 2007, ”The Business of Digital Disability’, The Information Society, vol.23, pp159-168