Social media plays vital role in disability education and calling out ableism

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Posted 10 months ago by Nicole Pope

More and more disability advocates are taking to social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook to educate, share thoughts and bring attention to ableism in society [Source: Shutterstock]
More and more disability advocates are taking to social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook to educate, share thoughts and bring attention to ableism in society [Source: Shutterstock]

Social media has the power to transcend across countries and is playing an important role in calling out ableism and debunking myths and stereotypes around disability, particularly around recent discussions regarding the need for a Royal Commission into disability and calls for more advocacy funding.

With trending hashtags such as #ThingsDisabledPeopleKnow, #RoyalCommissionNow, #CripTheVote and #StandByMe, more and more disability advocates are taking to social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook to educate, share thoughts and bring attention to ableism in society. Some examples include:

“Grabbing someone’s wheelchair without permission and moving them can legally be considered as assault and kidnapping. If that person were standing and walking you just picked them up and ran with them #ThingsDisabledPeopleKnow,” @Jasparrows tweets.

“It’s not “differently abled.” Say the word “disabled.” Disabled people don’t just live differently. Disabled people are often not afforded equitable education, employment, healthcare, rights, and general access #ThingsDisabledPeopleKnow,” @hayxsmith tweets.

“Traveling requires more planning. It’s difficult to be spontaneous when you must consider accessibility at all times while in the community. Inaccessibility and lack of transportation options can be more disabling than a physical disability #ThingsDisabledPeopleKnow,” @DSitwell93 tweets.

Co-Chief Executive Officer of People with Disability Australia, Matthew Bowden says social media is a powerful tool for many people with disability to share their experiences with disability with people in their neighbourhoods, communities and around the world.

“We use it every day to highlight the voices of people with disability and engage in conversation with people with disability,” he says.

“Social media is also a great way to raise issues, such as the need for a Royal Commission into violence against people with disability (#RoyalCommissionNow) and the funding of disability representative organisations and advocacy services (#StandByMe, #AdvocacyMatters, #DropInTheOcean).”

Mr Bowden also acknowledges the prevalence of ableism on social media and says some of the large social media and technology companies have been slow to recognise hate speech against people with disability in their policies.

“But hashtags such as #ThingsDisabledPeopleKnow, #CripTheVote, #AmbulatoryWheelchairUser, #AccessIsLove and #HospitalGlam are some of the many ways that people with disability are using social media to connect with each other, confront ableism and to raise the profile of people with disability.”

Amaze Victoria, a peak autism body joined in on Twitter last week calling out common stereotypes about autism.

“Not all autistic people are computer wizards. Not all autistic people like dark, quiet places. Not all autistic people are Rain Man-like. Not all autistic people are men. Guess what? Not all autistic people are alike and autistic stereotypes are wrong,” the tweet read.

Chief Executive Officer of Amaze, Fiona Sharkie says social media has incredible potential to reach people in both a broad and targeted approach to break down the pervasive myths, misunderstandings and stigma around disabilities, such as autism.

“Because it’s so driven by storytelling, social media is a perfect platform to put ‘people first’ – to show how discrimination, marginalisation and stigma manifests, and the profound power inclusion and acceptance can have on the well-being of autistic people.”

She also says its the powerful tool in educating others and calling out ableism.

“It’s an amazing platform for autistic people to share their stories and advocate on behalf of themselves and their communities.”

Research by Amaze found that 68 percent of autistic people avoid community spaces due to sensory sensitivities and therefore, social media provides a valuable source of social engagement for the autism community.

“The internet has been a boon for autistic people, as it allows them to connect with others in their own time, reach people with shared interests across the globe, and form meaningful connections and friendships,” she says.

Amaze Victoria is working to remove and debunk pervasive myths and stereotypes around autism.

Ms Sharkie says one of the biggest myths is that autism is a niche issue when in fact 85 per cent of Australians have a personal connection to autism, whether it’s a family member, friend or colleague.

“There are long-standing, damaging stereotypes we seek to change, like all autistic people excel at IT, or can’t feel empathy… and our research has uncovered other concerning community beliefs: 52 per cent of Australians believe or are unsure if schools can refuse to enrol autistic students; more than 30 per cent believe or are unsure it autism can be cured; 39 per cent agree or are unsure that autistic people are often violent; and 12 per cent agree or are unsure that vaccines cause autism.”

Ms Sharkie says Amaze is working hard to change these misunderstandings.

“Through our social media, we share real, diverse and compelling stories of autistic people, bust myths with evidence-based information and build community understanding of autism.”

“Every person has the power to create a more inclusive world, simply by learning about autism and making small changes to their own behaviour,” she says.

You can search any of the above-mentioned hashtags on Twitter to find a whole range of experiences, stories and discussions on disability. 

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