Twitter is much more than just the President's favorite communication tool. It's a unique type of social media that focuses above all on words. It's also an especially rich environment for communication and community among people with disabilities. But what, exactly, makes Twitter different from other social media, and where do I start?
5 Unique Aspects of Twitter
1. Each post is limited to 140 characters. Not 140 words, 140 characters. That includes punctuation and spaces. So, you have to be brief, or at least chop your longer statements into multiple parts.
2. Once you know what you're looking at, Twitter posts are easy read and respond to. As noted above, "tweets" are short, and it's not too hard to figure out how conversations and longer dialogs work.
3. Twitter is a great way to share links to any article or website that interests you. You can paste any website address into a tweet, and add a comment about it. On many internet browsers, you can even tweet directly from an article without even logging into Twitter separately.
4. Discussions on Twitter can cover a lot of ground, but they're easy to manage. Twitter discussions are more public and indirect than emails or texts, but that makes the more accessible to anyone who is interested. So if the discussion is about a public issue ... like some aspect of disability policy or common disability experience, participation is both personal and beneficial to others.
5. #Hashtags are a unique way to link topics and promote ideas. It's a little hard to explain hashtags, but once you see how they work, it's pretty clear. When you add a particular word or phrase to a tweet, people can see that tweet, even if they don't follow you, by searching that hashtag. Hashtag words and phrases have the # symbol in front of them, and are shown in a different color, like a web link, so they're easy to spot and you can see everything with that hashtag by clicking on it wherever you find it.
5 Reasons for People with Disabilities to Use Twitter
1. It's easy to connect with disability issues nationally and world-wide by following a few key people and organizations. (See the list below).
2. The 140 character limit will exercise your writing & communication skills. It forces you to organize your thoughts and be brief, which is a real asset in academic and business writing.
3. People with disabilities have popularized some extremely potent and expressive hashtags you'll want to read and contribute to. (See the list below). You can also start your own!
4. Organized, scheduled Twitter Chats allow huge numbers of people to join in more directed, purposeful conversations and have their contributions heard and recognized. A scheduled chat means a person or organization announces ahead of time when a discussion will take place. They will probably tell you the #hashtag phrase that will tie the conversation together, and they may publish a list of questions that they will ask during the chat to prompt discussion. All you have to do is log into Twitter at the appointed day and time, and search the #hashtag to see what everyone is saying and add your own comments if you want.
5. Although Twitter is not completely "barrier-free," it does enable people with disabilities to say and do a lot with minimal physical effort. As already pointed out, you don't need to type long paragraphs and pages in Twitter. In fact, you can't! Just a little typing, or dictating, and clicking is all you need. Plus, you can meet and conference with people all over the world without the cost or exhaustion of travel. That's quite an asset for people with disabilities.
5 People To Follow
(Descriptions are from their Twitter profiles)
"Unrepentant night owl. Obscene consumer of tv, food & news. Founder of @DisVisibility Project. Twitter is my dojo."
"#DisabilityTooWhite & #WOCwD Creator • Founder of @RampYourVoice! • #Disability_Rights #Consultant & #Advocate • Macro #LMSW • Writer • #Disabled Womanist"
"TheCripCrusader * film director * dad * trans quip (bi/queer crip) * Polish American Ławniczak * gamer * intersectional feminist * dis/LGBTQ in media #FilmDis"
"Disability rights, public policy and Judaism. Directs @mysupportworks and past President of @autselfadvocacy. I spent five years on @NatCounDis. Proud Zionist."
"Disability rights journalist. Medieval history professor. TV/movie critic. Irish rock musician. Fighting the #CultOfCompliance. I also do dishes."
5 Hashtags To Explore
#CripTheVote ... Ongoing discusison of disability and politics.
#DisabledAndCute ... Sharing photos of ourselves as proud disabled people.
#FilmDis ... Weekly discussions about disability on film, TV, and popular culture.
#SayTheWord ... Speaking out against using euphemisms for disability.
#AmericaWithoutADA ... Sharing ways American would be different without the Americans with Disabilities Act.