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Arushi Sahay — Social media empowers those with disabilities

Social media empowers those with disabilities to find a supportive community and share their stories to combat discrimination and the perpetuated ableist narrative.

 

Arushi Sahay 
Arushi Sahay

Those without disabilities often have the preconceived notion that those with disabilities often struggle to become independent and successful. However, people with disabilities now have a powerful platform to reshape this ableist narrative by sharing their stories and struggles. For example, YouTube is a powerful platform that allows people with disabilities to talk about their experiences. These platforms allow people with disabilities to form a community where they can feel supported by others who share similar experiences. Additionally, social media helps make people with disabilities become more prominent figures. Many people with disabilities have become influencers such as Jillian Mercado. She is not only an activist but also a model who features her wheelchair prominently in photoshoots. She also raises awareness about the discrimination of people with disabilities. Another popular disabled influencer is Kaitlyn Dobrow. She is a disability rights activist and a make-up artist with a significant following on Instagram. She describes her life as a quadruple amputee while showcasing her skills as an artist. The success stories of people like Jillian Mercado and Kaitlyn Dobrow help disrupt the ableist narrative while providing role models to those struggling to come to terms with their disabilities. 

Social media can also shed light on unique experiences that abled people do not experience. For example, YouTube influencers Squirmy and Grubs highlight the lifestyle of a couple in which one person is disabled and one person is abled. This YouTube channel initially just started as a way of sharing a unique lifestyle but quickly gained momentum. Now these influencers run a non-profit organization that helps provide helpful technology to those with muscular dystrophy. These types of YouTube channels showcase unique stories that help abled people better understand disabled people and engage in discussions about how society often discriminates against those with disabilities.

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Social media also allows users to reach thousands of people enabling those with disabilities to spread their message to a much larger audience and engage in meaningful discussions through features such as commenting. For example, the hashtag features on social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter help users to build communities and connect with other individuals to deconstruct the ableist narrative. Hashtags like disabled and disabilities are most commonly used to spread awareness. For example, activist Annie Segarra highlights stories of individuals with varying disabilities as well as struggles that abled people might not even think about. She uses both Twitter and YouTube to share this message and engage in discussion. Social media also enables people with disabilities to support each other online such as Alice Wong, the founder of the Disabled Visibility Project (DVP). She compiles the stories of people with disabilities and moderates Facebook groups that discuss issues related to disabilities. Social media allows those with disabilities to support each other online to portray the realities of being disabled on their own terms. Therefore, social media empowers those with disabilities to find a supportive community and share their stories to combat discrimination and the perpetuated ableist narrative. 

by Arushi Sahay

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