Social networking sites have exploded over the past decade as more people have come to rely on them to communicate and to perform everyday tasks. We use social networking in our professional lives, our social lives, and for pure entertainment.
The growth of mobile devices has made it easier than ever to stay connected with people outside our immediate social circle. All around the globe, social media is being used as a tool for giving voice to the voiceless. In keeping with that spirit of inclusion, learning disability support for social media has come of age.
For someone with a learning disability, online social networking can widen horizons and open up new opportunities. Social networking sites are used for a wide variety of reasons. Some of the largest include:
- Facebook: Facebook is the most popular social networking site, with about one billion accounts worldwide. Facebook allows users to share information, and upload photos and videos. Anyone can create smaller and more private groups targeted to people who share similar interests.
- LinkedIn: Primarily a business networking site, LinkedIn allows users to display their education, work history, and career aspirations while connecting with others in their profession, leveling the playing field for those who find social interaction difficult.
- Twitter: The microblogging site is used by people from all walks of life, including politicians, celebrities, and the general public. Twitter is fast and easy communication of 140 characters or less at a clip. It’s also a great way to share links to articles and websites you like. Users can choose whose posts to follow, and can keep it from becoming overwhelming by creating smaller groups to follow.
These sites, and others like them, offer learning disability support by encouraging social interaction, something people with learning disabilities may have difficulty accomplishing offline.
Social networking sites intended specifically for people with disabilities are also on the rise.
Among them is a site called Special Friends Online, which was created as a safe haven for people with learning disabilities, their parents, caregivers, and volunteers. It’s a place where people can “meet” new friends and share inspirational stories. In an effort to make the site more accessible to people with communication difficulties, its creators included a large array of icons, ready-made questions, and pre-set answers from which users can easily choose. These can be translated into 14 languages and parents or caregivers can make the experience safer with privacy options.
As more targeted networking sites emerge to meet the growing needs of a diverse population, people with learning disabilities will have more opportunities to become part of the global conversation.