OIPO Disability Abstracts: Digital Inclusion

Digital inclusion has transformed the lives of disabled people and involves a broad range of platforms and forms of access, primary among them are social media and information and communication technologies (ICT) which encompass a wide variety of digital tools. Disabled people utilize nearly all of them. This listing includes resources where digital inclusion and social media are involved in some way. These resources cross disciplines, are global in scale, and may include well known platforms and apps as well as new iterations and programs as well as discourse, both negative and positive:

  • Accessibility of technology and programs
  • Alternative and augmentative communication 
  • Assistive mobile technologies
  • Courseware accessibility and online learning
  • Crowdfunding
  • Deviant Art, Discord, Twitch and other online communities
  • Email and Listservs
  • Facebook and X (formerly Twitter)
  • Hashtags, keywords, and other tagging
  • Instagram, Flickr, Pinterest, and other image sharing apps
  • LinkedIn and other employment networking programs
  • Mass media, including online newspapers and magazines 
  • Newer programs, such as Threads
  • Privacy and safety online
  • Reddit, electronic bulletin boards, and other similar services
  • Selfies, memes, and viral media
  • Smartphones and other mobile devices
  • Social media and technology in the context of COVID-19
  • SoundCloud and other podcasting platforms
  • Trolling, flaming, and online harassment
  • Tumblr, WordPress, and other popular blogging platforms
  • Videoconferencing via Zoom and other platforms
  • WhatsApp, SnapChat, Facebook Messenger, and other chat based apps
  • YouTube, Vimeo, TikTok, and other video sharing apps 

Updated 1/3/2024

Content Warning: Some materials may concern controversial subject matters; therefore, discretion is advised.

Abdul Qayyum, A., Ahmed Jamil, R., Muhammad Shah, A., & Lee, K. (2023, November). Inclusive advertising featuring disability on Instagram: Effect on consumer well-being, brand engagement, and purchase intention. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 75, 103515. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jretconser.2023.103515

Should advertisers continue to promote their brands through brand endorsers without considering their diverse characteristics, or should they embrace diversity in advertising? Gender, age, ethnicity, and sexual orientation are some of the aspects of diversity that have been investigated in advertising research, primarily in the context of Western and developed countries. However, it remains underexplored how physical disabilities in influencer advertising on Instagram affect consumer well-being and consumers’ responses toward brands in a non-Western market. Through an experimental design (including both inclusive and non-inclusive samples), this study examined the effects of inclusive advertising (including disabled persons) on consumer well-being (both hedonic and eudaimonic), brand engagement, and purchase intention. Two studies were conducted to test the hypotheses. In Study 1 (shampoo brand case), a data analysis of 260 young Pakistani consumers revealed that inclusive (vs non-inclusive) advertisements enhance both hedonic well-being (HWB) and eudaimonic well-being (EWB), with a stronger effect for EWB. The spillover effects of EWB and HWB indicated a significant influence on brand engagement and purchase intention, whereas the effect of HWB is significant only on brand engagement. The effects of HWB on brand engagement and of EWB on purchase intention showed a greater influence in the case of inclusive advertisements than in traditional non-inclusive advertisements. In Study 2 (clothing brand case), an analysis of 235 respondents revealed that inclusive advertising drives both HWB and EWB, which have a greater influence on brand engagement and purchase intention when individuals are exposed to an inclusive advertisement featuring disabled persons than a non-inclusive one. These studies confirm that inclusive advertisements attract a more diverse customer base in addition to existing customers. These findings offer theoretical and practical insights for advertising and consumer research.

Alhaboby, Z. A., al-Khateeb, H. M., Barnes, J, & Short, E. (2016). ‘The language is disgusting and they refer to my disability’: The cyberharassment of disabled people. Disability & Society, 3I(6), 1138-1143. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09687599.2016.1235313.   

Disabled people face hostility and harassment in their socio-cultural environment. The use of electronic communications creates an online context that further reshapes this discrimination. We explored the experiences of 19 disabled victims of cyberharassment. Five themes emerged from the study: disability and health consequences, family involvement, misrepresentation of self, perceived complexity, and lack of awareness and expertise. Cyberharassment incidents against disabled people were influenced by the pre-existing impairment, perceived hate-targeting, and perpetrators faking disability to get closer to victims online. Our findings highlight a growing issue requiring action and proper support.

AlMeraj, Z., Abu Doush, I., Alhuwail, D., Shana, S., AlBahar, A., & Al-Ramahi, M. (2023). Access and experiences of Arabic native speakers with disabilities on social media during and after the world pandemic. International Journal of Human–Computer Interaction, 39(4), 923-948. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/10447318.2022.2051887.

Since the start of the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak, governments across the world have mobilized to inform citizens on the virus spread details, nation-level processes, and best health measures and practices to be taken. A large percentage of the media posted through the COVID-19 crisis has been graphical, which raised the question of whether Arabic-speaking blind and deaf persons were able to independently access reliable information. This article presents the results of two studies. The first study involves a content analysis of official social media posts about COVID-19 during critical phases of the outbreak via heuristic evaluation of WCAG2.1 on an iOS smartphone and an iPad. The second study explores the experiences of native Arabic-speaking blind and deaf persons on social media during the pandemic and curfew or lockdown periods in the State of Kuwait using a semi-structured interview (11 people who are blind/low vision and 7 people who are deaf). Overall, our findings highlight the accessibility gaps in the current government social media information content and its dissemination practices and barriers in providing information and services. Also, it gives insights into how people who are blind and people who are deaf are able to manage their lifestyle within and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

AlMeraj, Z., & Husain, F. (2023, July). A preliminary cross-language investigation of empathy in #Disability discourse on Twitter. In PETRA ’23: Proceedings of the 16th International Conference on PErvasive Technologies Related to Assistive Environments (pp. Pages 675–679). New York: Association for Computing Machinery. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1145/3594806.3596544.

Existing research targeting disability on social media has looked primarily at the English language across the Global North. This has caused significant data gaps in the understanding of disability awareness and cultural mindsets elsewhere. This work presents a cross-language analysis of English and Arabic #disability tweets over a period of time. A dictionary of words was adopted to help in understanding the linguistics surrounding the term ”empathy.” The finding suggests that disability mentions in English tweets have slightly more negative empathetic emotions than those found in Arabic tweets. However, more investigations are needed to explore cultural variations towards empathy and disability, and how they differ linguistically in online conversations.

Alper, M. (2017). Giving voice: Mobile communication, disability, and inequality. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.7551/mitpress/10771.001.0001.

Mobile technologies are often hailed as a way to “give voice to the voiceless.” Behind the praise, though, are beliefs about technology as a gateway to opportunity and voice as a metaphor for agency and self-representation. In Giving Voice, Meryl Alper explores these assumptions by looking closely at one such case—the use of the Apple iPad and mobile app Proloquo2Go, which converts icons and text into synthetic speech, by children with disabilities (including autism and cerebral palsy) and their families. She finds that despite claims to empowerment, the hardware and software are still subject to disempowering structural inequalities. Views of technology as a great equalizer, she illustrates, rarely account for all the ways that culture, law, policy, and even technology itself can reinforce disparity, particularly for those with disabilities.

Alper explores, among other things, alternative understandings of voice, the surprising sociotechnical importance of the iPad case, and convergences and divergences in the lives of parents across class. She shows that working-class and low-income parents understand the app and other communication technologies differently from upper- and middle-class parents, and that the institutional ecosystem reflects a bias toward those more privileged.

Handing someone a talking tablet computer does not in itself give that person a voice. Alper finds that the ability to mobilize social, economic, and cultural capital shapes the extent to which individuals can not only speak but be heard.

Alper, M., & Ensmenger, N. (2015). Augmentative, alternative, and assistive: Reimagining the history of mobile computing and disability. IEEE Annals of the History of Computing 37(1), 93-96.

“This article explores the linked histories and sociocultural implications of the Vocaid and the iPad. Through this brief case study, I argue that developments in mobile computing and advancements in electronic communication aids for nonspeaking individuals are inherently intertwined through the history of their research, development, commercialization, use, and reuse. Although disability is often underrepresented in the history of computing, it has played, and continues to play, a significant role in how computers augment and provide alternatives to human communication and expression” (p. 93).

Alper, M., Rauchberg, J. S., Simpson, E., Guberman, J., & Feinberg, S. (2023). TikTok as algorithmically mediated biographical illumination: Autism, self-discovery, and platformed diagnosis on #autisktok. New Media & Society OnLine First. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/14614448231193091.

Scholarship in the sociology of medicine has tended to characterize diagnosis as disruptive to one’s self-concept. This categorization, though, requires reconsideration in light of public conversations about mental health and community building around neurocognitive conditions, particularly among youth online. Drawing upon Tan’s notion of “biographical illumination” (BI), which describes how medical frameworks can enrich personal biographies, we explored the shifting nature of BI through the case of TikTok. Combining quantitative and qualitative methods, we argue that TikTok serves as a space to discuss diagnosis and refine one’s sense of self as a result of diagnosis. However, such personal transformation is inseparable from the app’s affordances, or what we term “algorithmically mediated biographical illumination.” BI shapes TikTok as a platform, and TikTok informs BI as a psychosocial process, leading to what we call “platformed diagnosis.” These findings have broader critical applications for the study of algorithms, disability, and digital platforms.

Alperstein, N. (2021). Issues of social movement ethics, privacy, accessibility, and inclusiveness in mediated networks. In Performing Media Activism in the Digital Age. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-73804-4_6

Most users of digital media do not realize that when they engage online, they leave a digital footprint, which raises the question as to where the boundaries are regarding public safety and individual privacy. Often when a government or corporation harvests an individual’s data they are doing so without “informed consent,” which raises the question of ethics for government surveillance programs. Looking at the ethics of algorithms, this chapter investigates the tensions that exist between governments, corporations and activists engaged in cloud protesting. Concerns are raised in the chapter regarding the lack of understanding among many who create algorithms that through machine learning take on a life of their own. The chapter extends the discussion of ethics to consider how scholars engaged in social movement research have to walk a fine line between objective observers and participants in social movements. The chapter also considers the ethical challenge put forth by societies to provide accessibility and inclusivity on digital media platforms. The issue of accessibility and inclusiveness in mediated networks is addressed through a case study of disability vloggers on YouTube and the Disability Network on Facebook.

Alsheri, B. R., Fallatah, A. I., & Najmi, A. H. S. (2023). Systematic review of studies on the employment of digital educational platforms for students with disabilities. Journal of Positive School Psychology, 7(1), 1157-1169.

This research aims at reviewing and analyzing the published studies in the globally classified international databases in ScienceDirect, Scopus, during the years 2010-2021. For identifying the digital platforms, employed for students with special needs, and for revealing the key purposes, advantages and challenges, a systematic review methodology has been used. The research sample consists of 40 studies; as well, a symbolic model has been developed for data collection. The main findings are that the most used digital platforms are Moodle and Blackboard, while the variables are performance variables related to skills. The results also indicate low skills in using digital platforms for some persons with disabilities and a lack of social interaction among learners.

Anderson, S. (2023). Threats to valuing diverse voices in public debates about disability: A case study from social media. Research and Practice in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 10(1), 48-60. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/23297018.2022.2051198.

This study aimed to highlight the threats that use of social media poses to valuing diverse voices and different kinds of expertise about disability in public debates by exploring how disability advocates responded on social media to the evidence presented by researchers to the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability. Data were collected from the social media platform Twitter during the first week of Public Hearing 3 of the Royal Commission in December 2019. Tweets by 48 individuals and 27 representatives of advocacy groups who were not described as academic researchers in their Twitter profile were collected, anonymised, and coded using template analysis techniques. Findings showed that social media commentators were critical of the presence and participation of researchers in the Commission hearings and questioned the legitimacy of their research methods and findings. These commentators stated that researchers should not speak “for” or “about” people with disabilities and rejected evidence that did not resonate with their own individual experience. For the Commission to deliver meaningful recommendations to improve the disability sector, disability policy and the lives of people with disabilities, it is important to value both stories of lived experience and rigorous research evidence. Public discourse that undermines the relationships between researchers and disability self-advocates and advocates may be unhelpful for future collaboration on the development of better policy and practice.

Anderson, S., Araten-Bergman, T., & Steel, G. (2023). Adults with intellectual disabilities as users of social media: A scoping review. British Journal of Learning Disabilities Early View. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/bld.12534

Background: Social media use continues to grow, and it offers an important way for adults with intellectual disabilities to feel socially included and to communicate with others.

Aim: This study aimed to establish the state of knowledge about social media use among adults with intellectual disabilities, their experiences and its impact.

Method: A scoping review was conducted of peer-reviewed literature published between 2000 and 2021 that reported empirical research on social media use, experiences, training and outcomes for adults with intellectual disabilities.

Findings: Adults with intellectual disabilities use social media platforms and experience a range of positive outcomes including feeling more included and valued. Some of the negative impacts included bullying and exploitation. The high cost of technology and some elements of design sometimes make social media inaccessible.

Conclusions: The studies included provided evidence about the experience of using social media from adults with intellectual disabilities and some perspectives of family members and paid supporters. Future research is needed to examine effective approaches to overcoming barriers to access and ways to manage some of the negative impacts of engagement in order to inform policy and practice.

Andrews, E. E., Forber-Pratt, A. J., Mona, L. R., Lund, E. M., Pilarski, C. R., & Balter, R. (2019). #SaytheWord: A disability culture commentary on the erasure of “disability.” In P. B. Perrin (Ed.), Diversity and Social Justice in Disability Research [Special Issue]. Rehabilitation Psychology, 64(2), 111–118. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/rep0000258.

Purpose: To inform the field of rehabilitation psychology about the sociocultural implications of the term “disability,” and explain the rationale behind the #SaytheWord movement, a social media call to embrace disability identity. 

Method: Review of the literature on disability terminology, the history of language use, and the relationship between attitudes toward disability and language. We reflect on the role of disability within the field of psychology and within the American Psychological Association (APA), including the underrepresentation of disabled psychologists and trainees with disabilities and the lack of mentorship opportunities available in the field. 

Implications: The authors argue that erasure of the word “disability” can have unintended and adverse consequences. We describe how erasure of disability identity in the context of current sociopolitical efforts to reduce and eliminate public services and supports for people with disabilities is especially threatening to members of the disability community. To move forward, the authors postulate that the disability movement must reconcile its own history of exclusion and adopt a disability justice framework. 

Conclusion: The field of psychology has a rich tradition of appreciation of cultural diversity and individual difference; yet, disability has largely been left out of these efforts. The disability movement is moving toward the status of a diverse cultural group with a social justice agenda parallel to those of other marginalized communities. The authors posit that psychology must play a stronger role in advancing the human rights of people with disabilities. 

Ardianto, A., & Yogyakarta, S, K. (2023, June). Disability in the midst of YouTube social media attraction in religious programs on the Hafiz Indonesia channel. Contemporary Society and Politics Journal (CSP), 2(1), 1-9. 

This research focuses on understanding the relationship between disability and media logic in religious programs, specifically in the Hafiz Indonesia program that aired during the month of Ramadan. It received significant appreciation, as evidenced by the number of subscribers on the Hafiz Indonesia YouTube channel, which reached 1.53 million. The data was collected through observation of YouTube social media and analyzed using Charles Sanders Peirce’s semiotic theory, which develops a triadic model known as the “triangle meaning semiotics,” as well as Brewis Alexander’s body image theory. The findings of this study reveal that there is still stereotyping of individuals with disabilities in the media, with the media often portraying them as models of resolution and restraint.

Asuncion, J. V., Budd, J., Fichten, C. S., Nguyen, M. N., Barile, M., & Amsel, R. (2012). Social media use by students with disabilities. Academic Exchange Quarterly, 16(1), 30-35. 

The objective of this exploratory study was to investigate the use and accessibility of social media by postsecondary students with disabilities in order to raise basic awareness by the higher education community. YouTube was the most popular form of social media used by these students. MSN / Windows Live Messenger was rated the most accessible social medium, and InternSHARE.com was the least accessible. The most popular suggestion for developers and producers of social media was to have a simpler or better layout. 

Avella, H. (2023). “TikTok ≠ therapy”: Mediating mental health and algorithmic mood disorders. New Media & Society Online First. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/14614448221147284

Popular and professional psychology merge to produce novel forms on TikTok—a platform on which therapeutic content grew enormously during the pandemic, rendering it a productive site to examine mediated mental health subjectivities, including ways people come to understand themselves in terms of mental health pathologies. Examining the dynamic interplay of capacities and constraints of therapeutic and algorithmic frameworks reveals ways in which therapeutic roles and rituals are re-negotiated in this space. Therapists utilize memetic tropes of the platform to position themselves within its affective flows, while leveraging beliefs about the algorithm to connect with users. The affective engagement of users’ works to curate a stream of content against which mental health and therapeutic frameworks are evaluated, ultimately designating a diagnostic gaze to a charismatic algorithm—a potentially emergent social media case of automated forms becoming paradigmatic in the ways we conceive of mental health and therapy.

Bailey, K. A., Bessey, M., Rice, C., Poplestone, L.,  & Gillett, J. (2023). #AccessibleYoga for whom? The non-performativity of accessibility and inclusion on Instagram. Leisure/Loisir. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/14927713.2023.2291016.

Yoga has a long contentious history of accessibility and inclusion. Scholars and practitioner-activists today call for inclusive yoga; however, even within seemingly inclusive yoga campaigns in digital spaces, depictions of the practice often exclude bodies of difference. We use Sara Ahmed’s theorizing of non-performatives to explore #AccessibleYoga and #InclusiveYoga and understand how possibilities for bodies of difference are profuse or sparse on Instagram. Layering our analysis with Rosemarie Garland-Thomson’s feminist disability theory of misfitting, we consider yoga’s potential to create places for bodily affirmation in the future of yoga worlds. For our study, we applied a reflexive thematic analysis and named the following themes: the non-performativity of language, permissible diversity, and cripping yoga(?). We found diversity at the exclusion of disability, but also observed creative use of props that nods to the potential cripping of yoga. We interrogate the non-performativities of language within yoga and explore relational approaches to access.

Baumgartner, A., Rohrbach, T., & Schönhagen, P. (2023). ‘If the phone were broken, I’d be screwed’: Media use of people with disabilities in the digital era. Disability & Society, 38(1), 73-97. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09687599.2021.1916884.

Digital media have become integral to the everyday life of people with disabilities. So far, research about disability and digital media use is rather scarce and narrowed on issues of accessibility and social media. This paper draws on qualitative interviews with people with visual or motoric impairments to provide an in-depth analysis of their everyday experiences relating to barriers and benefits of digital media. The findings reproduce previously identified barriers and extend these by adding novel sub-aspects of individual cognitive and attitudinal barriers like non-use of digital media due to their (perceived) complexity and a feeling of greater dependence on digital technology. However, the results also shed light on highly individualized ways that people with disabilities actively make use of digital media to improve their daily life. Despite persisting and new barriers, the general findings suggest that, with the appropriate training and support, digital media are largely beneficial.

Berg, A., Guddingsmo, H., & Solum Myren, G. E. (2023). Tensions between closure of the digital divide and acts of care in residential settings for persons with disabilities: A study of adopting customised information and communication technology. Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/17483107.2023.2248194.

Purpose: In contemporary society, being unable to take advantage of information and communication technology (ICT) can create barriers to maintaining social relations and, thus, can increase the risk of social exclusion and loneliness. Prior studies have revealed that, among persons with disabilities, customised ICT can contribute to the maintenance and improvement of personal social networks. Nevertheless, there is still a need for knowledge regarding the adaption of ICT of those involved when customized ICT are set up in the residents for persons with disabilities. 

Methods: Through conducting interviews with four residents, as well as their relatives and members of staff this article explores how KOMP, a customised ICT product designed to enhance digital contact among people who are unable to use ICT independently, was applied in four different municipal residences in Norway. Collective qualitative analysis was utilised to perform this investigation. 

Results: The analysis show that KOMP can help strengthen relationships, interferes with interactional practices, and underscores the institutionalised lives in the residences. These findings emphasise that applying customised ICT/KOMP in such settings highlights the underlying tensions regarding residents’ rights to self-determination and privacy. 

Conclusions: This study provides insights into how formal and informal regulations developed by relatives and staff, with the purpose of both protecting residents and protecting oneself from digital exposure, impacts the residents’ ability to take advantage of customised ICT and overcome the digital disability divide.    

Bimo, S. (2023). The horror of networked existence: Affect, connection, and anxiety in classic creepypasta narratives. In T. Ghosal (Ed.), Global Perspectives on Digital Literature: A Critical Introduction for the Twenty-First Century. New York: Routledge. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003214915-8.   

This chapter examines the phenomenon of “creepypasta,” a new genre of horror fiction, and argues that this narrative form has emerged as a result of the technological affordances of the digital media environment. While past scholarship has drawn attention to the similarities between creepypastas and older narrative forms such as folk tale, legend, and myth, little academic attention has been paid to the ways in which the digital medium in which these stories are presented fundamentally influences the progression of their narratives via disruptions to the traditional positionality of the reader to the text. This chapter considers the manner in which digital affordances structure these narratives and facilitates interactive, sensory reading experiences which draw readers into the story in a way that muddies the distinction between subject and object, and allows the story to encroach upon the lives of readers in unprecedented ways.

Bitman, N. (2023) ‘Which part of my group do I represent?’: Disability activism and social media users with concealable communicative disabilities. Information, Communication & Society, 26(3), 619-636. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2021.1963463

Social media provides marginalized activists multiple options for constructing alternative narratives that challenge mainstream discourse. However, despite these platforms’ increasing accessibility, disabled activists may struggle in creating their counter-narrative. Their inability to conform to able-bodied notions of activism leaves their individual experiences out of the discussion of social media activism. This paper addresses this gap by presenting the individual decision-making process of disabled social media users regarding activists’ performances in social media as gleaned from the qualitative analysis of in-depth interviews. This process includes three phases that demonstrate the experiences of social media users with communicative concealable disabilities – autistics, hard-of-hearing (HoH), and people who stutter. First, these interviewees present a spectrum of perceptions of disability activism in social media. Second, these perceptions lead to a spectrum of motivations, which mirror the interviewees’ various risk-benefit calculations regarding public self-disclosure as disabled. Third, these perceptions and motivations are manifested through interviewees’ strategic design of their activist performances in private and public spheres. By rethinking key concepts in social media activism – risk-benefit calculation, slacktivism, and digital storytelling – this process illustrates taken-for-granted assumptions of personalization, visibility and representation, that challenge current discussions on social media activism.

Bloustien, G., & Wood, D. (2016). Visualising disability and activism in Second Life. Current Sociology, 64(1), 101-121. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0011392115596025.

Drawing on an ethnographic study of identity and disability in the 3D environment of Second Life (SL), this article documents the authors’ discussions with many regular users (known as ‘residents’) of SL who identify as having a disability or impairment in their ‘actual’ (off-screen) lives. Since SL offers the possibility of anonymity, regular users with a physical impairment may decide when and where to disclose or highlight their disability or whether to do so at all, when they are in world. Many also use the potential of SL to negotiate and challenge conventional media representations of embodied difference through their avatars. In this article the authors argue that the choices of representation reflect the residents’ understandings of their own sense of ‘authenticity’. For some, this involves a self beyond the limitations of physical embodiment – a metaphysical separation between body and mind. For others, the ‘real self’ is inseparable from a physical embodiment which includes the impairment or disability. These choices of how the users portray their avatar selves through a more fluid understanding of self-representation also offer potential for political and social advocacy beyond the virtual world.

Boellstorff, T. (2019). The opportunity to contribute: disability and the digital entrepreneur. In H. Yu, G. Goggin, K. Fisher & B. Li (Eds.), Disability Participation in the Digital Economy. Information, Communication & Society, 22(4), 474-490. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2018.1472796.

A range of scholarly work in communications, informatics, and media studies has identified ‘entrepreneurs’ as central to an emerging paradigm of digital labor. Drawing on data from a multi-year research project in the virtual world Second Life, I explore disability experiences of entrepreneurism, focusing on intersections of creativity, risk, and inclusion. Since its founding in 2003, Second Life has witnessed significant disability participation. Many such residents engage in forms of entrepreneurship that destabilize dominant understandings of digital labor. Most make little or no profit; some labor at a loss. Something is being articulated through languages and practices of entrepreneurship, something that challenges the ableist paradigms that still deeply structure both digital socialities and conceptions of labor.

Disability is typically assumed to be incompatible with work, an assumption often reinforced by policies that withdraw benefits from disabled persons whose income exceeds a meagre threshold. Responses to such exclusion appear when disabled persons in Second Life frame ‘entrepreneur’ as a selfhood characterized by creativity and contribution, not just initiative and risk. In navigating structural barriers with regard to income and access, including affordances of the virtual world itself, they implicitly contest reconfigurations of personhood under neoliberalism, where the laboring self becomes framed not as a worker earning an hourly wage, but as a business with the ‘ability’ to sell services. This reveals how digital technology reworks the interplay of selfhood, work, and value – but in ways that remain culturally specific and embedded in forms of inequality.

Borgos-Rodriguez, K., Ringland, K. E., & Piper, A. (2019, November). MyAutsomeFamilyLife: Analyzing parents of children with developmental disabilities on YouTube. In A. Lampinen, D. Gergle, & D. A. Shamma (Eds.), Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW) [Special Issue]. Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction, 3, Article No. 94. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1145/3359196

While parents of young children regularly make decisions about sharing content about their child or family online, we know less about how they create, produce, and share video-based content of children with stigmatizing experiences. Through an analysis of publicly available content on YouTube, supplemented with semi-structured interviews, we report on the ways in which parents of children with developmental disabilities produce, share, and interact with others through videos of their children’s experiences. Our analysis finds that parents disclose child information on YouTube to build authenticity, connect with others, advocate for social change, and justify monetization and child involvement. We discuss tensions between parents’ practices and the ethical complexities of sharing and studying parent-generated content featuring children with disabilities.

Bromley, B. E. (2008). Broadcasting disability: An exploration of the educational potential of a video sharing web site. Journal of Special Education Technology, 23(4), 1-13. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/016264340802300401.

YouTube is an Internet phenomenon, a video sharing Web site where individuals can upload videos to be viewed by anyone visiting the site. The purpose of this study was to search for and categorize videos related to disability on YouTube and explore the educational potential of the site for the disability community. A seven-day time period in mid-July 2007 was chosen for the search. The 13 disability categories listed in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) were used to create search terms. A total of 147 videos were found, the majority from the deaf and autism groups. Eight content categories were identified. YouTube videos have unique educational potential, offer a place for discussion of disability issues, and provide an outlet for creative expression.

Buchholz, M., Ferm, U., & Holmgren K. (2018). “That is how I speak nowadays” – Experiences of remote communication among persons with communicative and cognitive disabilities. Disability and Rehabilitation, 40(12), 1468-1479. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09638288.2017.1300340.  

Purpose: The aim of the study was to explore the experiences of remote communication (i.e., communication between persons who are not in the same place) among people with communicative and cognitive disabilities.

Materials and methods: Eleven adolescents and adults were interviewed using Talking Mats and interview data was analyzed qualitatively with systematic text condensation.

Results: The use of remote communication varies between the participants. The participants also value remote communication differently. Having the possibility to choose between different means of remote communication is important. Being able to determine whether to communicate independently or with support from another person is also valued as relevant. Strategies used to manage remote communication include facilitating for the communication partner and preparing for future communication situations. Those who are able to use writing as an alternative to problematic spoken remote communication like phone calls, for example by using chat or text messaging. Decisions regarding means of communication and human support relate to the concept of self-determination.

Conclusion: Better access to remote communication through assistive technology such as speech synthesis and picture symbols would make remote communication easier and facilitate participation for people with communicative and cognitive disabilities.

Bundy, R., Mandy, W., Kenny, L., & Ali, D. (2023). Autistic people and telehealth practice during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A scoping review. Review Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s40489-023-00387-1

Restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated changes to health and social care services, including the use of telehealth. Prior to COVID-19, there was interest in telehealth for autistic people; however, little is known about its use during the pandemic. This scoping review focused on telehealth for autistic people during the pandemic. It was pre-registered on PROSPERO, and the PRISMA extension for scoping reviews was followed. Ten databases identified 45 sources, which were categorised into two themes: (1) the nature of the shift to telehealth during the pandemic and (2) service evaluations. Large disruptions were reported across settings, and experiences were variable. New areas were developed, including telehealth with autistic children and adults, autistic people with intellectual disabilities, and minimally verbal autistic people.

Carter Olson, C. S., LaPoe, V. (20). “Feminazis,” “libtards,” “snowflakes,” and “racists”: Trolling and the Spiral of Silence effect in women, LGBTQIA communities, and disability populations before and after the 2016 election. Journal of Public Interest Communications, 1(2), 116-132. DOI: https://doi.org/10.32473/jpic.v1.i2.p116

Using a Qualtrics survey of 338 Twitter and Facebook users, the authors explore the effect that the 2016 U.S. presidential election had on people’s political posts both before and after the election and whether or not people actually experienced harassment and threats during the election cycle. If trolling causes people—particularly women, LGBTQIA community members, and people who identify with a disability—to censor themselves because they feel their opinion is in the minority or that they will be attacked for speaking, then it would follow that trolling is changing our digital public sphere, which is affecting our political conversations.

Cavar, S., & Baril, A. (2021). Blogging to counter epistemic injustice: Trans disabled digital micro-resistance. In E. Brewer, B. Brueggemann, J. Gallagher, & K. Henry (Eds.), Disability Studies, in Time [Feature Issue]  Disability Studies Quarterly, 41(2). DOI: https://doi.org/10.18061/dsq.v41i2.7794.

As part of a larger research project on the intersections between transness, disability, cisgenderism (also called transphobia), and ableism/sanism, this article presents the results of a three-month netnography of blog posts made between 2013 and 2019 by selected Tumblr and off-Tumblr blogs authored by people identifying as both trans and disabled. Mobilizing a theoretical framework that combines trans and disability/crip/Mad theory and the notion of epistemic injustice, we highlight the unique possibilities of community building, connection, identity formation, and micro-practices of resistance in trans disabled digital communities. Trans disabled bloggers counter epistemic injustice by speaking back, reclaiming space, and responding to the cisgenderist and ableist/sanist micro-aggressions they experience in their daily lives. This exploration of trans disabled bloggers’ micro-activism is divided into four parts. After reviewing the literature in the emerging field of trans disability studies in the first part, the second and third parts present our theoretical and methodological frameworks. Findings are presented and discussed in the three subsections of the fourth part, which delves deeper into our typology of three interrelated genres of trans disabled blog posts: informational, testimonial, and activist. As their names suggest, these genres aim respectively to: 1) inform other trans disabled internet users of identificatory possibilities; 2) testify about bloggers’ lived experiences; and 3) advocate for trans disabled people through appeals to users both within and outside trans and disabled communities.

Chadwick, D., Richards, C., Molin, M, & Strnadová, I. (Eds.). (2023, June). Digital Inclusion and People with Learning Disabilities [Special Issue]. British Journal of Learning Disabilities, 51(2). 

“We are delighted to bring you this special edition of the British Journal of Learning Disabilities focussed on digital inclusion. This editorial is split into six sections. Following this introduction, it provides an overview of the special issue. Third, it summarises some of the key themes and findings arising from the work presented in this issue. Fourth, the reflections of Cameron Richards, our editor who has a learning disability, are presented. Fifth, we introduce the In Response article written by people with learning disabilities about one of the articles in this special edition. We close with some reflections on contemporary topics of interest, the current state of research in the field and provide some suggestions for future research endeavours to enhance the digital inclusion of people with learning disabilities” (p. 119).

The majority of the articles published in this issue are Open Access and include accessible summaries.

This special issue includes an editorial, a book review, and the following contributions:

Chatterjee, R., Fears, N. E., Lichtenberg, G., Tamplain, P. M., & Miller, H. L. (2023). Identity and discourse among #ActuallyAutistic Twitter users with motor differences. Journal of Motor Learning and Development, 11(3), 525-540. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1123/jmld.2023-0007

Despite a growing awareness of the prevalence of motor differences in the autistic community, their functional impact is poorly understood. Social media offers the ideal setting to observe this discourse in a less-contrived setting than lab-based structured interviews. The aims of the present study were (a) to determine the proportion of Twitter users who self-identify as autistic and dyspraxic/having developmental coordination disorder, relative to autistic alone, and (b) to identify common themes emerging from two moderated chat threads with motor-related prompts. Using the Twitter research application programming interface, we harvested data from users’ public profiles and tweets containing terms related to autism and developmental coordination disorder within a 1-month time period. We also harvested data from two #AutChat threads related to motor skills, which included 151 tweets from 31 unique autistic users (two with co-occurring developmental coordination disorder). Of these tweets, 44 were explicitly about motor differences, while the remainder consisted of discussion topics more loosely associated with motor skills. The following common themes were quantified: manual dexterity, lower extremity, oral motor, gross motor, posture, balance, stimming, movement pain, and coordination. Together, these findings indicate that motor differences are highly recognized and discussed among autistic individuals but are not overtly integrated into their identities at the same rate.

Clements, F. A., Chadwick, D. D., & Orchard, L. J. (2023). ‘I’m not the same person now’: The psychological implications of online contact risk experiences for adults with intellectual disabilities. New Media & Society. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/14614448231217994.

Understanding online risk for adults with intellectual disabilities is important to improve digital inclusion in society. Perceptions of online risk can determine behaviours that obstruct or facilitate Internet access and use. This current study aimed to qualitatively investigate the psychological implications of online victimisation risks, including online negative comments and/or messages for adults with intellectual disabilities, as a novel area yet explored in-depth. Semi-structured interview data was collected remotely. Template analysis found there to be both negative and positive psychological implications experienced in response to online risks. Specifically, participants reported a wide range of negative emotions but also positive growth in the form of learning from the experience and increased confidence. The attribution of blame process in cybervictimisation can involve both blaming the perpetrator but also internalised victim-blaming which may be a consequence of the type of online risk (i.e. sexual risks). Implications for both practice and research are suggested.

Cocq, C., & Ljuslinder, K. (2020, June). Self-representations on social media: Reproducing and challenging discourses on disability. Alter, 14(2), 71–84. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.alter.2020.02.001

This article examines self-representations in a social media campaign against the discrimination of people with disabilities. We focus specifically on how these representations are related to various narratives and discourses, and in what ways the representations either adhere to or challenge normative discourses, or whether they offer counter-discourses. Considering that our cultural assumptions are influenced by the representations we are exposed to, we also discuss the possible potential of self-representations for the audience of the campaign. The empirical material consists of a digital activism campaign conducted on Instagram in Sweden that was constructed through self-representations (photos and short texts). The study combines discourse analysis and visual analysis with focus on how the persons present themselves in the campaign, how disability is mentioned and/or displayed, and how a presentation adheres to or challenges a model of understanding disability, such as the medical or social models. We found a diverse set of claims, all with the common goal of acknowledging discrimination, in order to make it visible and bring about change. The narratives identified indicate a variety of strategies for understanding disability and various styles that people adopt to relate to established discourses on disabilities. Through this campaign, the bloggers could find and provide support, but they also took the stage by requesting that the audience listen. The campaign examined in this study can be further understood as an effort and a step towards increased visibility and politicization of disability.

Cole, J., Nolan, J., Seko, Y., Mancuso, K., & Ospina, A. (2011). GimpGirl grows up: Women with disabilities rethinking, redefining, and reclaiming community. New Media & Society, 13(7), 1161-1179. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444811398032.

In this article, we undertake a reflective narrative inquiry into the GimpGirl Community (GGC), an online group of women with disabilities. We explore 12 years of GGC activity through community archives and auto-biographic narratives of GGC organizers, to understand how these women actively created a safe and open space for like-minded individuals, how community members used diverse online technologies for community building and social interaction, and how these online tools allow some members to experiment with their notions of self and identity outside dominant discourses. Our analysis of the lived experiences of GGC members reveals how they challenge the boundary between ‘abled’ and ‘disabled,’ and enact agency beyond their marginalization as women and as individuals with disabilities.

Coombes, E., Wolf, A., Blunt, D., & Sparks, K. (2022). Disabled sex workers’ fight for digital rights, platform accessibility, and Design Justice. In L. Blewett, A. Jones, & M. Osbourn (Eds.), Sex Work and Disability [Special Issue]. Disability Studies Quarterly, 42(2). DOI: https://doi.org/10.18061/dsq.v42i2.9097.

Internet technologies are an increasingly necessary tool for sex working people, disabled people, and people who hold both identities to access resources, community, and income, as well as make claims to rights and fight for social justice. However, ongoing community research suggests that the failures of online platforms to address accessibility needs have had grave effects on sex workers, particularly those with disabilities. This article examines how normative whorephobic, racist, ableist user experience (UX) social media design intersects with punitive virtual content moderation systems to negatively impact disabled sex workers. To better understand how, we focus on unique problems faced by disabled people on the internet and how disability intersects with the sex trade and sexualization more broadly. We draw on data from our previous community research, Erased: The Impact of FOSTA-SESTA and the Removal of Backpage, in addition to Posting into the Void, to share experiences of sex workers navigating disability and discriminatory online systems. We highlight how whorephobic content moderation and punitive platform policing, exacerbated by FOSTA-SESTA, uniquely impact disabled sex workers, particularly those who depend on visual or aural aids to engage with social media. In doing so, we highlight critical intersections between disability justice, sex worker justice, and design justice to advocate for the importance of collaboration between movements.

Curtiss, S. L., Myers, K., D’Avella, M., Garner, S., Kelly, C., Stoffers, M., & Durante, S. (2023). Sex.Ed.Agram: Co-created inclusive sex education on Instagram. Sexuality and Disability. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11195-023-09794-y

Most sex education programs for adults with intellectual disabilities are led by non-disabled sexual health experts. This approach may be less effective and appropriate for adult learners. Using community-based participatory research (CBPR), we explored a program that uses an inquiry-based learning process so that members can create reliable information about sex and disseminate it on Instagram. Through thematic analysis of interviews with group participants, we identified three themes about how the program brought everyone’s different ideas about sex and sex ed together into content for Instagram: Blurring the Lines Between the Educated and Educating; Learning is Dependent on the Strengths and Weaknesses of Our Connections; and Committed to Inclusivity but Wrestling with Ableism.

Dalvit, L. (2023). A critical exploration of YouTube texts by and about people with disabilities in South Africa. In T. Mazali & R. Surugiu (Eds.), Media and Gender Inequality – Papers from the ESA-RN18 international conference “Communication, Capitalism and Critique: Critical Media Sociology in the 21st Century” [Special Section]. Mediascapes Journal, 21(1), 344–358. 

The work of intellectuals such as Marx and Gramsci has been extensively employed in the study of social inequalities across contexts and in relation to different dimensions. As one of the most unequal societies in the world, South Africa provides a number of past and recent examples of discrimination, oppression and violence on the basis of race, gender, socio-economic and migrant status, political affiliation etc. Despite their continued marginalisation during and after apartheid and despite accounting for a substantial portion (7.5%) of the population, people with disabilities appear relatively neglected in scholarly and media debates. The booming Internet and mobile penetration, which promised to give a voice to the voiceless, increasingly seems to reproduce and at times exacerbate such marginalisation. By drawing on Gramsci’s notions of hegemony and public intellectuals, in this paper, I explore discursive constructions by and about South Africans with disabilities on YouTube. Videos and comments are purposively selected from three active channels based on their relevance and are quantitatively as well as qualitatively analysed. The first objective of the study is to understand disability in relation to other dimensions of diversity, e.g. race or gender. Given the intersectional nature of disability, this is particularly important in the South African context where online as well as offline experiences are still profoundly shaped by the legacy of past institutional segregation and discrimination. The second objective is to recognise disability as part of a complex and multi-faceted online persona. The digital space enables people to either hide their disability or bring it to the fore, but it remains to be understood to what extent this is an autonomous and conscious choice as opposed to a defensive strategy or an expected form of activism or awareness rising. The third objective is to recognise, as much as can be gauged from YouTube videos and comments, the extent to which people with disabilities are constructed according to established media tropes. Celebrations, compliments and praise in particular can represent covert forms of victim commiseration or hero glorification thus reproducing tragic narratives and setting low expectations.

Davies, D. K., Stock, S. E., King, L. R., Brown, R. B., Wehmeyer, M. L., & Shogren, K. A. (2015). An interface to support independent use of Facebook by people with intellectual disability. Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 53(1), 30-41. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1352/1934-9556-53.1.30

Use of social networking sites, such as Facebook, is rapidly expanding, but people with intellectual disability are at risk for exclusion because sites like Facebook are not designed for cognitive access. The purpose of the present study was to describe the development and initial testing of a cognitively accessible prototype interface for Facebook, called Endeavor Connect, that was designed to support independent Facebook use by people with intellectual disability. The performance of young adults with intellectual disability when completing five common Facebook tasks was compared when using the Endeavor Connect and Facebook interfaces. Results suggest that, when using Endeavor Connect, young adults with intellectual disability completed more tasks independently with fewer errors and required fewer prompts. Implications for research and practice are discussed.

Davis, D. Z., & Boellstorff, T. (2016). Compulsive creativity: Virtual worlds, disability, and digital capital. International Journal of Communication, 10(2016), 2096-2118.

In this article, we analyze the intersection of creativity and agency by examining what might appear to be a very different intersection: disability and the digital. We do this by exploring what we term “compulsive creativity” as experienced by persons living with Parkinson’s disease who are active in the virtual world Second Life. To address forms of social and cultural capital, we introduce the notions of “digital embodied states” and “digital objectified states.” In doing so, we suggest ways that compulsive creativity speaks to questions of cultural capital in the context of disability online and emerging creative economies.

Diaz, M.I., Medford, R.J., Lehmann, C.U., & Petersen C. (2023). The lived experience of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic on Twitter: Content analysis. Digital Health, 9, 1-15. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/20552076231182794

Objective: People with disabilities (PWDs) are at greater risk of COVID-19 infection, complications, and death, and experience more difficulty accessing care. We analyzed Twitter tweets to identify important topics and investigate health policies’ effects on PWDs.

Methods: Twitter’s application programming interface was used to access its public COVID-19 stream. English-language tweets from January 2020 to January 2022 containing a combination of keywords related to COVID-19, disability, discrimination, and inequity were collected and refined to exclude duplicates, replies, and retweets. The remaining tweets were analyzed for user demographics, content, and long-term availability.

Results: The collection yielded 94,814 tweets from 43,296 accounts. During the observation period, 1068 (2.5%) accounts were suspended and 1088 (2.5%) accounts were deleted. Account suspension and deletion among verified users tweeting about COVID-19 and disability were 0.13% and 0.3%, respectively. Emotions were similar among active, suspended, and deleted users, with general negative and positive emotions most common followed by sadness, trust, anticipation, and anger. The overall average sentiment for the tweets was negative. Ten of the 12 topics identified (96.8%) related to pandemic effects on PWDs; “politics that rejects and leaves the disabled, elderly, and children behind” (48.3%) and “efforts to support PWDs in the COVID crisis” (31.8%) were most common. The sample of tweets by organizations (43.9%) was higher for this topic than for other COVID-19-related topics the authors have investigated.

Conclusions: The primary discussion addressed how pandemic politics and policies disadvantage PWDs, older adults, and children, and secondarily expressed support for these populations. The increased level of Twitter use by organizations suggests a higher level of organization and advocacy within the disability community than in other groups. Twitter may facilitate recognition of increased harm to or discrimination against specific populations such as people living with disability during national health events.

Dobransky, K., & Hargittai, E. (2021). Piercing the pandemic social bubble: Disability and social media use about COVID-19. American Behavioral Scientist, 65(12), 1698–1720. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/00027642211003146

The COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing stay-at-home orders caused tremendous restrictions in social contacts, which led to increasing use of the internet for daily tasks and social interactions. As prior research has established, people with disabilities (PWD) had already been using the internet for such purposes prior to the pandemic, especially for health-related content. Through a national survey administered during the first few weeks of the pandemic in the United States, we explore how people with and without disabilities used social media to exchange information and engage in activities about COVID-19. Findings reveal that PWD were more engaged with information about COVID-19 than those without disabilities, even when controlling for sociodemographics and internet experiences and skills. These differences are especially pronounced concerning more active engagement such as sharing information, interacting, and supporting others on social media. Although the content is about a health crisis in which PWD are disproportionately vulnerable, these effects largely remain when we enter controls for health status, belonging to high-risk groups for COVID-19, and personal experiences with COVID-19. Findings highlight the benefits of universal design, both for PWD specifically, and for society more broadly, as the general population ramps up use of tools long fought for and used by PWD.

Edwards, C., Love, A. M. A., Jones, S. C., Cai, R. Y., Nguyen, B. T. H., & Gibbs, V. (2023). ‘Most people have no idea what autism is’: Unpacking autism disclosure using social media analysis. Autism. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/13623613231192133

Autism disclosure – that is sharing their autism diagnosis or identity with a person or people–is a difficult decision for many autistic people. While telling people they are autistic can be positive and helpful, it can also create a lot of problems. What we have learnt is that disclosure is really complicated. Rather than asking research participants questions about what might happen, we looked at what people were saying on public social media posts (Reddit and Twitter) about what did happen. We used three years of posts that were related to autism disclosure from a wide range of adults (autistic and non-autistic). Four main ideas were created from our data, with the key finding being that society does not understand autism. This lack of understanding creates problems for autistic people in work, dating, healthcare and mental health. The remaining ideas were that autistic people should have privacy and be treated with respect, that autistic representation can help society and that non-autistic people need to do more to help autistic people. Our findings support that society needs to do more through autism advocacy, better media representation and more public role models. Increasing the accuracy of understanding of autism across society will mean that autistic people can feel safer to disclose if they want to.

Egner, J. E. (2019). “We love each other into meaning”: Queer disabled Tumblr users constructing identity narratives through love and anger. New Narratives of Disability [Research in Social Science and Disability, Vol. 11] (pp. 261-276). Bingley: Emerald Publishing Limited. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1108/S1479-354720190000011029

Purpose/Methods/Approach: Employing virtual ethnography and narrative analysis, this chapter uses data drawn from the online social media site, Tumblr, to explore a group of Tumblr users who mostly identify with the complex intersectional identities of LGBTQ+ disabled people of color.

Findings: This chapter suggests that narratives are skillfully constructed by this group of Tumblr users in ways that counteract felt or expected experiences of exclusion, invisibility, and stigmatization within this identity-based community. The posters represented here are combating this invisibility and marginalization. They narrate themselves into existence by attaching their experiences to two well-known and recognizable social problem narratives. One is the “Pride/Community and Self-love” narrative, commonly associated with LGBTQ+ pride and LGBTQ+ communities. The other is the “Our Lives Matter/Deserving of Life” narrative, commonly associated with communities and social movements such as Black Lives Matter. Posters are artfully constructing their own community narratives by drawing from these culturally circulating and available narrative resources. When these two popular narratives are deployed in this way, they are counternarratives that are doing both resistance work and community/identity-building work. The ultimate effect is that the counternarrative they construct unites quite a diverse group of people through experiences of shared exclusion.

Implications/Value: This chapter extends the scholarly conversation on both narratives and disability by suggesting ways in which counternarratives about individuals with complex intersectional identities can be constructed in virtual communities. In so doing, the chapter brings poorly represented perspectives into discourses on disability and narratives. The study also contributes to the literature on the importance of emotion, specifically by highlighting the deployment of love and anger to counteract experiences of shame and marginalization.

Egner, J. (2020). #ActuallyAutistic: Using Twitter to construct individual and collective identity narratives. In M. J. Brady, K. Fritsch, M. J. van Rensburg & K. L. Ryan (Eds.), Autism_Media_Social Justice [Special Issue]. Studies in Social Justice, 16(2). DOI: https://doi.org/10.26522/ssj.v16i2.2675

Employing Critical Autism Studies and Narrative Analysis, this project examines how autistic Twitter users engage in narrative meaning-making through social media. By analyzing the hashtags #ActuallyAutistic and #AskingAutistics this project broadly explores how individuals construct identity when lacking access to positive representations and identity communities. Answering the research question, “How do autistic people construct individual and collective identity narratives through Twitter?,” findings indicate that autistic Twitter users use their social media presence to build virtual learning communities. Common knowledge about autism is often oversimplified and highly medicalized. Therefore, autistics use Twitter to make meaning of their experiences that are not represented within cultural notions of what it means to be autistic. Autistic Twitter users reject medicalized narratives by contesting stereotypes, flipping negative narratives into positive stories, re-inscribing “deficiencies” as beneficial, and resisting rehabilitation and “cure.” Users do important social activist work by building strong autistic communities in ways that counter current negative representation, constructing positive self-affirming individual and community identities and resisting eugenic notions that autistic people are “less valuable.”

Ellcessor, E. (2016). Restricted access: Media, disability, and the politics of participation [Postmillennial Pop]. New York: NYU Press.

While digital media can offer many opportunities for civic and cultural participation, this technology is not equally easy for everyone to use. Hardware, software, and cultural expectations combine to make some technologies an easier fit for some bodies than for others. A YouTube video without closed captions or a social network site that is incompatible with a screen reader can restrict the access of users who are hard of hearing or visually impaired. Often, people with disabilities require accommodation, assistive technologies, or other forms of aid to make digital media accessible—useable—for them.

Restricted Access investigates digital media accessibility—the processes by which media is made usable by people with particular needs—and argues for the necessity of conceptualizing access in a way that will enable greater participation in all forms of mediated culture. Drawing on disability and cultural studies, Elizabeth Ellcessor uses an interrogatory framework based around issues of regulation, use, content, form, and experience to examine contemporary digital media. Through interviews with policy makers and accessibility professionals, popular culture and archival materials, and an ethnographic study of internet use by people with disabilities, Ellcessor reveals the assumptions that undergird contemporary technologies and participatory cultures. Restricted Access makes the crucial point that if digital media open up opportunities for individuals to create and participate, but that technology only facilitates the participation of those who are already privileged, then its progressive potential remains unrealized. Engagingly written with powerful examples, Ellcessor demonstrates the importance of alternate uses, marginalized voices, and invisible innovations in the context of disability identities to push us to rethink digital media accessibility.

Ellcessor, E. (2017). Accessing fan cultures: Disability, digital media, and Dreamwidth. In M. A. Click & S. Scott (Eds.), The Routledge Companion to Media Fandom. New York: Routledge. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315637518-25

This chapter reviews the intersection of disability, online cultures, and media fandoms. It considers fan communities’ history of disability inclusion, leading many fans with and without disabilities to work around technological barriers to find new paths to access. On blogs and social media, people with disabilities share experiences, develop a shared cultural space, and come to recognize a social model of disability or to participate in a disability community. While LiveJournal centralized moderation tools and enabled members to forge their own connections, it was subject to the same accessibility challenges as other blogging platforms, including difficulties in the “establishment of a blogging account, maintaining a blog, and ‘reading’ blogs”. Cultural accessibility, as expressed in the Diversity Statement and percolated through the development community, has facilitated the provision of technological accessibility by encouraging users to report problems, suggest features, and participate in the Dreamwidth project.

Ellcessor, E. (2017). Cyborg hoaxes: Disability, deception, and critical studies of digital media. New Media & Society, 19(11), 1761-1777. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444816642754.

This article examines academic and popular examples of a “cyborg hoax”—an articulation of gender, dis/ability, and technology that is deceptive, reinforces an ideology of ability, and prevents users and scholars alike from seeing the value of disability for digital media cultures. The article uses cyborg theory, cyberculture studies, literature on online deception, and critical disability studies to argue that cyborg hoaxes are a dominant but stereotypical representation. This is contrasted with ethnographic data about disabled peoples’ online experiences, which suggest that alternative linkages of disability, gender, and technology can provide valuable insights into the critical study of online cultures.

Ellis, K. (2019). Disability masked avengers: The Bolshy Divas. In K. Soldatic & K. Johnson (Eds.), Global perspectives on disability activism and advocacy: Our way. London: Routledge. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781351237499-14.  

This chapter offers a case study of the Bolshy Divas to explore the possibilities of disability media activism online. It focuses on academic approaches to disability activism and social media. The chapter introduces theories of participatory culture and reflects on the ways disability activists increasingly use online media, situating the Bolshy Divas within both Henry Jenkins’s seven-point framework of a participatory culture and Filippo Trevisan’s three types of online disability activists. The chapter draws on a wider social media activist tendency described as a call-out culture and reflects on the ways the Bolshy Divas and women with disabilities have been excluded from participation in another online feminist movement, Destroy the Joint. It aims to introduce an alternative mechanism to rally disability rights activism online via a case study of the various approaches taken by the Bolshy Divas at key political moments related to disability social justice issues in Australia.

Ellis, K., & Kent, M. (Eds.). (2010). Disability and new media. New York: Routledge. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203831915.

Disability and New Media examines how digital design is triggering disability when it could be a solution. Video and animation now play a prominent role in the World Wide Web and new types of protocols have been developed to accommodate this increasing complexity. However, as this has happened, the potential for individual users to control how the content is displayed has been diminished. Accessibility choices are often portrayed as merely technical decisions but they are highly political and betray a disturbing trend of ableist assumption that serve to exclude people with disability. It has been argued that the Internet will not be fully accessible until disability is considered a cultural identity in the same way that class, gender and sexuality are. Kent and Ellis build on this notion using more recent Web 2.0 phenomena, social networking sites, virtual worlds and file sharing.

Many of the studies on disability and the web have focused on the early web, prior to the development of social networking applications such as Facebook, YouTube and Second Life. This book discusses an array of such applications that have grown within and alongside Web 2.0, and analyzes how they both prevent and embrace the inclusion of people with disability.

Contributions include:

Ellis, K., & Kent, M. (2015, September). Disability and the Internet [Special Issue]. First Monday, 20(9). 

“Earlier this decade, the emerging field of disability media began to focus on the Internet and people with disabilities. Books such as Paul T. Jaeger’s Disability and the Internet in 2012 and Disability and new media by this issue’s editors in 2011 both extended earlier work in this field particularly Goggin and Newell’s 2003 Digital disability.

This new focus incorporated changes to the environment with the hype around Web 2.0, the rise of online social networks and the increasing prevalence of smartphone and other mobile devices being used to access the Internet, as well as the evolving legal environment around access to technology for people with disabilities.

Our aim in compiling this special issue was to continue the work we began with Disability and new media.”

Content in  this issue include an introduction and the following contributions:

Ellis, K., & Kent, M. (Eds.). (2016). Disability and social media: Global perspectives. London: Routledge. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315577357.

Social media is popularly seen as an important media for people with disability in terms of communication, exchange and activism. These sites potentially increase both employment and leisure opportunities for one of the most traditionally isolated groups in society. However, the offline inaccessible environment has, to a certain degree, been replicated online and particularly in social networking sites. Social media is becoming an increasingly important part of our lives yet the impact on people with disabilities has gone largely unscrutinised.

Similarly, while social media and disability are often both observed through a focus on the Western, developed and English-speaking world, different global perspectives are often overlooked. This collection explores the opportunities and challenges social media represents for the social inclusion of people with disabilities from a variety of different global perspectives that include Africa, Arabia and Asia along with European, American and Australasian perspectives and experiences.

The book is divided into six sections, Advocacy, Access, Communications, Education, Community, and New Directions. Contents include an introduction and the following contributions:

Ellis, K., Kent, M., Locke, K., McRae, L., Dau, D., & Peaty, G. (2021). Smartphones, disability and the Australian experience of the COVID-19 Pandemic for People who are blind and with low vision. In P. Block Pereira, A. Guedes de Mello, & D. Sakellariou (Eds.). Disability and COVID-19 [Special Issue]. Disability Studies Quarterly, 41(3). DOI: https://doi.org/10.18061/dsq.v41i3.8318.  

This paper offers insight into and analysis of the disparate and diverse experiences of Australians with disability, at the intersections of technology and geography during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Drawing on interviews with the blind and low vision community we identify a significant cross-generational uptake of smartphones. Participants demonstrate a reflexive and creative use of these devices when faced with reduced accessibility, and the significance of geography – not simply the distinctions between countries, but between urban and regional residents.

These interviews are contextualised within a broader discussion of how Australians with disability responded to the pandemic via analysis of blogs, articles and social media. We focus on the voices and perspectives of disabled people, and that community’s emphasis on individuality and intradisability diversity.

Lastly, we present an overview of the discussions being held around the role of contact tracing and apps, privacy, validity and vulnerability. This discourse is important for ensuring support for the disability community pre and post global health emergencies, but also a valuable exemplar for understanding the relationship between digital inclusion and social equality more broadly.

Eriksson, C., & Ineland, J. (2023). Ideals, governance and competencies: The complexity of implementing digitalisation in disability organisations. British Journal of Learning Disabilities Early View. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/bld.12547

Background: Living in the digital era, young adults with intellectual disabilities use diverse digital products, the Internet, and social media in their daily lives. However, they may need support in digital undertakings as in other aspects of life. In a disability service context, staff are primary support providers but are restricted and guided by organisational goals and strategies. Previous research has shown that staff have dual roles as support providers and executors of organisational ambitions. This study analyses the motivations and prerequisites, as well as the obstacles to the implementation of digitalisation at a strategic level of disability services.

Method: Qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted with public officials and municipal politicians responsible for providing disability services. A thematic analysis was performed using a constructionist perspective.

Findings: Three themes were identified: Intertwined ideals of digital infrastructures in disability contexts, culture of vertical governance, and developing competencies. These themes can be seen as pillars of the digitalisation of digital services at the organisation’s strategic level. In addition to shedding light on specific issues, these themes reveal underlying issues relating to conceptions of support practices and organisational culture.

Conclusion: Digitalisation is motivated by a desire to preserve the organisation’s legitimacy and be a relevant service provider. Digital infrastructure is required for digitalisation but is lacking because of intertwined legal and moral issues. Digitalisation also appears to be hindered by organisational structures and organisational culture, whose impact greatly outweighs that of digital issues.

Foster, J., Pettinicchio, D. (2023). #DisabilityTikTok. In M. S. Jeffress, J. M. Cypher, J. Ferris, & J. A. Scott-Pollock (Eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Disability and Communication. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-14447-9_17

Social media applications like TikTok provide important opportunities for visibility and representation among marginalized people. This chapter examines TikTok’s viral videos on disability and their implications for members of the disability community. Specifically, it analyzes 100 of TikTok’s most widely viewed videos on disability. The analysis focuses on issues of intersectionality and how the videos rhetorically challenge or reinforce disability stereotypes and tropes. Findings show that many of the videos challenge narrow media tropes and ableist stereotypes. Platform-based norms, however, appear to privilege only a select few creators and creators with disabilities are seldom among them.

Fournier, L. (2020). Sick women, sad girls, and selfie theory: Autotheory as contemporary feminist practice. In E. C. Karpinski & R. Chansky (Eds.), Life writing outside the lines: Gender and genre in the Americas. London: Routledge. 

In autotheory as contemporary feminist practice, artists, writers, philosophers, activists, curators, and critics use the autobiographical, first person, and related practices of self-imaging (Jones, Self/Image 134) to process, perform, enact, iterate, subvert, instantiate, and wrestle with the hegemonic discourses of “theory” and philosophy. The term “autotheory” circulates specifically in relation to third wave and fourth wave feminist texts, such as American writer Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts and American filmmaker and art writer Chris Kraus’s I Love Dick even as the act of theorizing from the first person is well-established within the genealogies of feminism; as a post-1960s practice it takes on a particularly conceptual and performative valence. This article serves as a historicization of what we are referring to in the present as “autotheory,” with autotheoretical antecedents having been referred to as “critical memoir,” “theoretical fiction” (Hawkins 263), “life-thinking” (Samatar), and “fiction theory” (Brossard). I turn my attention to “Sick Woman Theory” and “Sad Girl Theory” as twenty-first century examples of autotheoretical feminist practices that span out across social media. I consider how these post-internet practices of making space for sickness and sadness in autotheoretical ways can be understood in relation to the imperatives of intersectionality and the complications of neoliberalism in the present.

Galbraith, P. W., & Bookman, M. R. (2023). Open becoming: A Disabled VTuber and her community in the era of COVID-19. In M. Qiao (Ed.), The Coronavirus Pandemic in Japanese Literature and Popular Culture. London: Routledge. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003341154-6

In the wake of COVID-19, a “Virtual YouTuber” (hereafter VTuber) named Ironmouse rose to prominence. The global pandemic was “a mass-disabling event,” where barriers to full social participation that had once been invisible became common concerns. There was a crisis of “care economies,” which disabled people had long experienced. While she is not unique in sharing disability with others online, Ironmouse, whose physical conditions have meant that she has spent much of her life in seclusion, stands out in her consciousness of what new forms of interaction and relation can mean to fans. Drawing on the literature on “idols,” or performers who appeal directly to their audience for support and invite intimate and intense interactions and relations, the chapter contends that Ironmouse’s approach to disability highlights vulnerability and loops others into her “open becoming.” Fans participate in VTubers’ open becoming through their interactions and relations with them. This participation can be therapeutic for those who see their own vulnerability in the idolized VTuber. This open becoming and shared vulnerability is a common condition and aspect to the idol amid the mass-disabling COVID-19. Against this backdrop, Ironmouse promotes new modes of collaboration and mutual empowerment. The chapter closes with thoughts on Ironmouse and her fans and talent management agency as stakeholders in the idolized character, as well as limits that come with taking advantage of vulnerabilities in ways that can hurt.

Gale, F. & Bolzan, N. (2016). Online ghettoes, perils or supernannies? Australian young people with chronic illness and disability challenge some moral panics about young people online. Disability & Society, 31(8), 1112-1126. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09687599.2016.1236717.   

Current literature focusing on young people’s digital technology use often reflects concerns that they may live virtual lives and withdraw from locally geographically situated spaces. It assumes the existence of a split between offline and online ‘worlds’ corresponding to ‘real ‘and ‘non-real’ respectively. This article reports research findings on how young people locate new social media technologies in their daily lives with particular focus on the relationship between their online and offline experiences. The voices of the young people guided the research, which found that their social media use contradicts conventional narratives of moral panic about the alleged unreality and fearful dangers of online spaces for young people.

Gelfgren, S., Ineland, J. & Cocq, C. (2022) Social media and disability advocacy organizations: Caught between hopes and realities. Disability & Society, 37(7), 1085-1106. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09687599.2020.1867069.

This article examines the role of advocacy organizations and their use of social media within the field of disability in Sweden. How do the organizations negotiate digital media, and what are the (intentional or unintentional) consequences related to the use of social media? With focus on the representatives of advocacy organizations, we study how they reflect and act in order to balance various motives, and what challenges and ambiguities that arise. On one hand, there is a perceived need to be online and communicate with members and the surrounding society. On the other hand, digital communication induces a divide between those who have the resources to take part in such communication, and those who do not – in terms of digital competence, economy, age, cognitive abilities, technical equipment and digital connection. The heterogeneity of resources and target groups inevitably challenges both the ideals of inclusion and intentions of advocacy organizations.

Gheorghe, R. M., & Yuzva Clement, D. (2023) Weaponized autism: Making sense of violent internalized ableism in online incel communities. Deviant Behavior. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/01639625.2023.2268253

Much attention has been paid to incel communities in recent years. Comprised of involuntary celibate individuals who are dissatisfied with their shared experiences of romantic and sexual rejection, incels blame women and the societal rejection of hegemonic masculinity as the cause of their grievances. Current scholarship has produced conflicting results regarding the prevalence of autism within incel communities when compared to the general population. At the same time, no research to date has explored the intersection of incels and autism using perspectives from individuals in the incel community. Using a critical autism lens, this present study thematically analyzes 20 online incel message boards to explore the sense-making of self-identified autistic incels. Findings indicate that incels’ internalized ableism of autism is employed to categorically justify the victimhood and entitlement that grounds their ideology. This weaponization of autism is then used to promote ableism and networked misogyny. Implications for understanding ableist and misogynistic beliefs associated with inceldom are provided.

Gilmore, D., Radford, D., Haas, M. K.,Shields, M., Bishop, L., & Hand, B. (2023). Building community and identity online: A content analysis of highly viewed #Autism TikTok Videos. Autism in Adulthood Ahead of Print. DOI: http://doi.org/10.1089/aut.2023.0019.

Background: TikTok is a popular social media site for connecting with others online where many users also access and share health-related information. Previous studies have characterized information shared about specific disabilities on TikTok, but descriptions of autism-related content are lacking. Understanding the information shared about autism on TikTok is important to understanding health communication in this space, the lived experiences of autistic people, and the role that social media platforms play in building community through connection, understanding, and inclusion.

Methods: We used an open-source data scraper to identify and download videos with at least 1 million views and that used the hashtag #autism from TikTok. Using a joint inductive and deductive approach, we performed a content analysis of videos. We identified six content topics that described video content (e.g., positive social interactions and features of autism), and three categories that described video purpose (e.g., educational, experiential, and observational). We used descriptive statistics to describe characteristics of who was in the TikTok videos.

Results: We analyzed n = 678 videos. The most common content topic of TikTok videos was features of autism (39.7%), followed by marginalization (25.4%). Most videos were categorized as experiential (61.4%) or observational (31.4%) rather than educational (7.2%). Approximately 65.5% of videos featured an autistic adult and 22.6% featured an autistic child. Among videos featuring an autistic person (n = 594), most autistic people were perceived to be White (87.0%) with similar numbers of feminine (52.9%) and masculine (44.8%) presenting autistic people.

Conclusions: Highly viewed #autism TikTok videos primarily share autistic people’s individual experiences rather than providing general education about autism. However, autistic Black, Indigenous, and people of color may have difficulty finding others that represent them along both disability and racial dimensions. Future research should investigate autistic people’s motivations for using TikTok, and how #autism content shapes social discourse about autism.

Gleason, C., Valencia, S., Kirabo, L., Wu, J., Guo, A., Carter, E. J., Bigham, J., Bennett, C., & Pavel, A. (2020, October). Disability and the COVID-19 Pandemic: Using Twitter to understand accessibility during rapid societal transition. In ASSETS ’20: Proceedings of the 22nd International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility, Article No: 5. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1145/3373625.3417023.  

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced institutions to rapidly alter their behavior, which typically has disproportionate negative effects on people with disabilities as accessibility is overlooked. To investigate these issues, we analyzed Twitter data to examine accessibility problems surfaced by the crisis. We identified three key domains at the intersection of accessibility and technology: (i) the allocation of product delivery services, (ii) the transition to remote education, and (iii) the dissemination of public health information. We found that essential retailers expanded their high-risk customer shopping hours and pick-up and delivery services, but individuals with disabilities still lacked necessary access to goods and services. Long-experienced access barriers to online education were exacerbated by the abrupt transition of in-person to remote instruction. Finally, public health messaging has been inconsistent and inaccessible, which is unacceptable during a rapidly-evolving crisis. We argue that organizations should create flexible, accessible technology and policies in calm times to be adaptable in times of crisis to serve individuals with diverse needs.

Goggin, G., & Newell, C. (2015). Foucault on the phone: Disability and the mobility of government. In S. L. Tremain (Ed.), Foucault and the Government of Disability [Corporealities: Discourses of Disability] (pp. 261-278). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

“Telecommunications is the locus of digital interactive communications that are fast becoming central to society at the commencement of the new millennium. Advanced telecommunications and computer networks are the nervous system of a wide variety of contemporary communications and media forms, including the Internet, new modes of voice and text telephones, and digital broadcasting. Digitization and convergence have merged technological systems such as the computer, telephone, television, radio, book, and newspaper. Increasingly, information and entertainment, goods and services, education and health, and travel and recreation are expected to reach us through a stream of zeros and ones, through our phone lines and radio waves. In this chapter, we suggest how Foucault’s work can be used to scrutinize the interrelatedness of emerging forms of telecommunications, disability, and government” (p. 261).

Groenevelt, I. P., & de Boer, M. L. (2023). Contesting misrecognition online: Experiences of epistemic in/justice by vloggers with contested illnesses. Social Science & Medicine. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2023.115951

Contested illnesses, such as fibromyalgia, myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), and chronic Lyme disease (CLD), are surrounded by polemic debates regarding their etiology, symptomology, treatment, and even their existence. People who suffer from these contested illnesses arguably also suffer from “epistemic injustice.” This concept, coined by the philosopher Miranda Fricker, captures how people’s knowledge may be discredited because of identity prejudices. In our paper, this concept is used to understand how seven Dutch women with contested illnesses experience the emancipatory potential of their vlogging practices. Our findings show how these women understood their vlogging as a means to break with epistemic smothering, understood as the propensity to cater ones testimony to one’s audience (Dotson, 2011), and as a means to attain and enhance epistemic justice. However, our findings also show how vlogging about contested illnesses did not seem to allow these women to fully break with their epistemic smothering practices, and that the ableist design and gendered norms of YouTube were experienced as obstacles to attaining epistemic justice. We conclude that, even though social media do seem to hold emancipatory potential for these women, the experiences of individual users are diverse and ambiguous.

Hadley, B. (2016). Cheats, charity cases and inspirations: Disrupting the circulation of disability-based memes online. Disability & Society, 31(5), 676-692. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09687599.2016.1199378.

With the increasing part online self-performance plays in day-to-day life in the twenty-first century, it is not surprising that critiques of the way the daily social drama of disability plays out in online spaces and places have begun to gain prominence. In this article, I consider memes as a highly specific style or strategy for representing disability via social media sites. I identify three commonly circulating categories of meme – the charity case, inspiration and cheat memes – all of which offer representations that people with disabilities find highly problematic. I then investigate the ways in which disabled people have begun to resist the representation and circulation of these commonly circulating categories of memes, via the production of counter or parodic memes. I focus, in particular, on the subversive potential of these counter memes, within disability communities online and within broader communities online.

Hall, M. (2018). Disability, discourse and desire: Analyzing online talk by people with disabilities. Sexualities, 21(3), 379–392. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1363460716688675

Fran Vicary, who has had cerebral palsy from birth, recently claimed in the UK newspaper, The Guardian, that most people with a disability seek to express themselves sexually. Arguing from personal experience, she said the expression of sexual desire is a much contested space for those with disabilities because their sexualities and bodies are controlled by broader public discourses that delegitimize and stigmatize their sexual agency and the possibility of pleasure. It is not surprising then that positive and empowering discourses of disability and sexuality are either invisible or missing. Drawing on discourse analysis, the author examines electronic talk by people with disabilities in a disability specific online community website. His analysis shows their rejection of mainstream discourses positioning them as asexual and the deployment of mainstream discourses, which draw on gender, sexuality and intimacy, as well as the circulation of disability-specific sexual pleasure discourses with sex workers and caregivers. The use of social media in expressing marginalized sexual identities is also discussed.

Haller, B. A. (2023). Disabled people transforming media culture for a more inclusive world. London: Routledge. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003219118

This book tells the stories of disabled people who have been influential in creating modern mass media. 

Through the voices of key disabled media makers and collaborators, the author highlights the ways in which their contributions are changing society’s understanding of disability and shaping mass media and culture. Spanning a range of media formats – television/streaming productions, performances, podcasts, TED Talks, films, reality TV, graphic novels, and social media channels – the book illustrates how disabled people are confronting the marginalization they have faced in mass media for decades. Modern disabled media creators are leveraging new media platforms to recognize the lived experiences of disability and their authentic place in media culture.

This innovative and thought-provoking volume will be an important read for scholars, disability advocates, and students of Disability Studies, Mass Communication/Media Studies, as well as mass media production faculty, disabled people, and their allies.

The Open Access version of this book, available at https://www.taylorfrancis.com, has been made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives (CC-BY-NC-ND) 4.0 license.

Contents include an introduction and the following chapters:

Hamraie, A., & Gotkin, K. (2023). Remote access: Crip nightlife, artistry, and technoscience. Leonardo. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1162/leon_a_02489.  

Beginning in 2020, Kevin Gotkin spearheaded the virtual Remote Access disability nightlife events. Aimi Hamraie directs the Critical Design Lab and coined the term “crip technoscience.” Here, Hamraie interviews Gotkin about genesis of this disability arts and culture party into an ongoing experiment in critical access-making. They focus on the elements of artistic production, presentation, and exhibition that required crip technoscience interventions before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hartley, M. T., Mapes, A. C.; Taylor, A., & Bourgeois, P. J. (2016, Fall). Digital media education and advocacy: Addressing attitudes toward disability on college campuses. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 29(3), 239-247. 

As digital information becomes the preferred mode of communication, media applications have become an emerging context to address attitudes toward disability. This practice brief details digital media as one method to critically frame ableism on college campuses, promoting a more inclusive campus environment. Coordinated by the disability service office, faculty affiliated with a campus-wide disability collaborative used a Disability Studies framework to design a general education course that critiqued the social construction of disability in the media. Following the course, interviews with eight students illustrated the relevance of the curriculum as it sponsored emergent awareness and understanding of ableism. In particular, it became evident that exposure to first-person narratives of disability via social media were fundamental. Implications address how colleges and universities can use emergent digital media applications as a method to promote an undergraduate culture that is more welcoming to disability.

Hedman Ahlström, B., & Wentz, E. (2015, February). Performance and social life perceived by young persons with ADHD and autism: A chat-log analysis. Psychology Research, 5(2), 114-124. DOI: https://doi.org/10.17265/2159-5542/2015.02.004

This study focuses on young persons with ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) and ASD (autism spectrum disorders), and on their everyday life. Follow-up studies on ADHD and ASD persisting into adulthood describe residual impairments affecting everyday life. Previous studies have focused on interventions and programmes aiming to support these young persons in their attempts to learn, understand and manage social interaction in real life. However, few studies involve the young person’s reflections on their own view of their everyday life. The aim was to elucidate how young persons with ADHD and ASD describe aspects of everyday life based on analysis of Internet-based chat logs. Twelve young persons (seven males and five females aged 15-26 years) with ADHD and ASD participated in an eight-week IBSC (internet-based support and coaching) study, comprising chat via Internet. Data consisted of 12 chat logs (445 pages of text) produced interactively by the participants and their personal coaches. The text was analysed using qualitative content analysis. Two themes were revealed: (1) “When performance is an achievement” with the subthemes; “to cope with the problems caused by the disability”, “the impact of treatment on performance”, and “to perform well enough”; and (2) “When social life is an achievement” with the subthemes; “desire for closeness” and “dealing with social relations”. The study reveals the young persons’ efforts to overcome obstacles to performance and social interaction stemming from their disabilities. They master strategies in terms of SOC while simultaneously they actuate their laborious transition into adulthood. Their ability to express these processes in an IBSC chat became evident. Using e-coaching in this population makes available new opportunities for health-care professionals to pay serious attention to these young persons’ problems.

Hemsley, B., & Murray, M. (2015).  Social Media and Communication [Special Issue]. Disability and Rehabilitation, 37(17). 

“…with this special issue on Social Media and Communication Disability and the forward research agenda of these and other researchers, we are also now closer in our understanding of how people with communication disabilities and those who work with them view and experience social media forums. This collection of evidence shows that Twitter™ , Facebook™, Second Life™, and many other platforms, including Instagram™, YouTube™, and Skype™ offer people with communication disabilities and those who work with them valuable connections with friends, celebrities, the general public, other people with communication disabilities, and service providers. People with acquired, or lifelong, communication disabilities may find social media to be a valuable medium for inclusion, support, and connection; and one that relieves some difficulties associated with face-to-face communication and enhances interactions in the real world. Documented herein are many ways in which people with communication disability can and might use social media, for a range of purposes and with different styles. As Wolf, an adult with autism, explained of Second Life: “friends I make here help me refine my models of friendship and social interaction in RL [Real Life].” We look forward to discovering how studies contained in this special issue inform or influence ongoing social media research, policies, and practices to increase social media participation by people with communication disabilities worldwide” (p. 1509).

Content includes the following contributions: 

Hemsley, B., Palmer, S., & Balandin, S. (2014). Tweet reach: A research protocol for using Twitter to increase information exchange in people with communication disabilities. In B. Hemsley & S. Balandin (Eds.), Communication Rehabilitation [Special Issue].  Developmental Neurorehabilitation, 17(2), 84-89. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3109/17518423.2013.861529

Objective: To (a) outline the background to research evaluating Twitter use by people with severe physical and communication disabilities participating actively in online communication forums for increasing information exchange and (b) illustrate a range of potential methods that might be applied in furthering research on the use of social media by people with developmental and acquired communication disabilities.

Methods: The literature on communication disabilities, augmentative and alternative communication, and social media research informed the rationale for and design of three studies investigating the use of Twitter by people with communication disabilities.

Results: To date, there is little information in the literature about how people with a range of communication disabilities might use Twitter to increase their access to information and help them to feel knowledgeable and in control of their own lives.

Conclusion: In this paper, three studies are proposed to investigate the use of Twitter by people with communication disabilities.

Heung, S., Phutane, M., Azenkot, S., Marathe, M., & Vashistha, A. (2022, October). Nothing micro about it: Examining ableist microaggressions on social media. In ASSETS ’22: Proceedings of the 24th International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility, Article No. 27, 1-14. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1145/3517428.3544801

Ableist microaggressions are subtle forms of discrimination that disabled people experience daily, perpetuating inequalities and maintaining their ongoing marginalization. Despite the importance of understanding such harms, little work has been done to examine how disabled people are discriminated against online. We address this gap by investigating how disabled people experience ableist microaggressions on social media and how they respond to and cope with these experiences. By conducting interviews with 20 participants with various disabilities, we uncover 12 archetypes of ableist microaggressions on social media, reveal participants’ coping mechanisms, and describe the long-term impact on their wellbeing and social media use. Lastly, we present design recommendations, re-evaluating how social media platforms can mitigate and prevent these harmful experiences.

Hill, S. (2022). Locating disability within online body positivity discourses: An analysis of #DisabledAndCute. Feminist Media Studies, 23(4), 1311-1326. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/14680777.2022.2032254.

This article situates disability within online body positivity discourses through an analysis of disabled young women’s self-representation practices via the Twitter hashtag #DisabledAndCute. Body positivity seeks to challenge conventional beauty standards by incorporating previously marginalized groups, such as disabled women, into broader “economies of visibility” that includes visibility through social media hashtags. The selfie plays a vital role and is seen as a tool through which to acquire the visibility, “empowerment” and confidence required by postfeminism. Through discursive textual analysis of 133 tweets posted by young women, this article identifies the key themes and characteristics within #DisabledAndCute such as “Love your body” (LYB) discourses and body positivity; the complex relationship between feeling cute and feeling hot; and temporality and futurity. It analyzes how #DisabledAndCute upholds postfeminist LYB discourses but also exposes the limits of LYB discourses through expressions of ambivalence that offer important insights into how gender and disability intersect within body positivity discourses. This article also explores how the tweets both conform to and subvert the temporal logics of the selfie to make the disabled self legible and produce more normative self-representations.

Hill, S. (2023). Navigating visibility and risk: Disabled young women’s self-presentation practices on social media. Journal of Gender Studies. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09589236.2023.2219971

Visibility is a requirement of neoliberal postfeminist girlhood and social media is often attributed with the capacity to provide disabled young women with visibility that they lack elsewhere. While some attention has been paid to the intersections of gender and disability through the self-presentations of disabled young women who are known as disabled content creators, such as bloggers and YouTubers, this article goes beyond this to examine how disabled young women represent themselves on social media as part of their everyday practices. Using a combination of discursive textual analysis of Twitter and Instagram accounts and semi-structured interviews with five disabled young women, I explore how affordances such as Twitter retweets play a key role in how disabled young women navigate their visibility online as part of their self-presentation practices. I argue that visibility is potentially risky and disabled young women’s social media use is shaped by concerns about harassment and questions about the ‘legitimacy’ of their disabled identities that operate at the intersections of gender, disability and race, stemming from their experiences of ‘systemic disbelief’. Finally, I situate these self-representation practices within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hill, S. (2017, Summer). Exploring disabled girls’ self-representational practices online. In C. Mitchell (Eds.), Technologies of Nonviolence: Reimagining Mobile and Social Media Practices in the Lives of Girls and Young Women [Special Issue}. Girlhood Studies, 10(2), 114-130. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3167/ghs.2017.100209

Recently, the field of girlhood studies has witnessed a growing body of research into girls’ self-representation practices, but disabled girls are largely absent from this work. In this article, I intervene in this area by asserting the need to explore how disabled girls represent themselves online in order to consider the intersections between girlhood and disability. I attempt to move away from discourses of risk that circulate around girls’ digital self-representation practices by demonstrating how these practices provide disabled girls with visibility in a postfeminist mediascape that renders them invisible, and also act as a form of social advocacy and awareness raising. I then explore how disabled girls represent themselves online in a postfeminist cultural landscape through a case study of a severely sight-impaired blogger, looking at how they must be seen as both motivated and motivational.

Hill, S. (2023). (Not) being the ‘cool disabled person’: Queering / cripping postfeminist girlhood on social media. In T. Sikka, G. Longstaff, & S. Walls (Eds.), Disrupted knowledge: Scholarship in a time of change [Studies in Critical Social Sciences Vol. 248] (pp. 155-173). Boston: Brill. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004536418_010

“This chapter draws on research findings from a project that took place during the Covid-19 pandemic, which aims to explore how disabled young women mediate their intersectional disabled and gendered identities through their online self-representation practices” (p. 155).

Hodkinson, A. (2014). ‘Safe spaces’ – Electronic media, the internet, and the representation of disability. IARTEM E-Journal, 6(1), 1-20. DOI: https://doi.org/10.21344/iartem.v6i1.761.

This paper details the findings from a research into educational ‘safe spaces’. In this research, the electronic media emplaced within four English schools’ intranet sites were examined to evidence the image of disability and impairment constructed in this ‘safe space’. The research, through the employment of proto text analysis, revealed that the image of disability and impairment within schools’ electronic media represented and unbalanced and negative image of disability that was grounded in the ideology of child deficit. Based upon these findings it is argued that ‘safe space’ in relation to these intranet sites was more a metaphor of dominance and power than one located within the principles of equality and social justice. The paper argues that as educators we must move beyond safe spaces as a shallow paradigm of meaning and ask when creating such places – what does space mean, how do the electronic media employed in such spaces create meaning and what might specific safe spaces do?

Hudson, N.A., Linnane, J.M., & Rayner-Smith, K. (2023). Autism and social media: A systematic review of the user experience. Advances in Autism, 9(3), 201-216. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1108/AIA-01-2023-0001.

Purpose: Social media use in autistic people has been identified as a potential avenue for less pressured social contact. Given shifts towards online socialisation, this study aims to systematically review the available literature on how autistic people experience and use social media.

Design/methodology/approach: A systematic review was carried out using the preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses system, with relevant literature reviewed and synthesised using a narrative approach. Inclusion criteria included adults and/or adolescents as the sole sample, a focus on autism and social media use as the sole/main topic.

Findings: A total of 1,278 research studies were initially identified; following screening, 15 papers were reviewed. Studies demonstrated some support for the positive role social media can play and presented its use as a smart adaptation for the challenges of neurotypical socialising. For autistic people, social media may provide a balance between meeting the need to be connected to people without the pressure of managing aspects, such as tone of voice or body language.

Research limitations/implications: Most studies were questionnaire-based with substantial threats to validity. Samples were self-selecting, with autism status not always confirmed. Individual studies used a broad approach to the definition of social media, including online gaming and other online activities, precluding firm conclusions being made.

Practical implications: There may be a Goldilocks “just right” level of social media contact that could maximise connectedness to others without impacting negatively on mental health, offline relationships and activities of daily living.

Originality/value: This paper presents a novel account of research from case studies and larger scale questionnaire studies.

Hutson, J., & Hutson, P. (2023, December). Digital inclusion for people with autism spectrum disorders: Review of the current legal models and doctrinal concepts. Journal of Digital Technologies and Law, 1(4), 851-879. DOI: https://doi.org/10.21202/jdtl.2023.37.

Objective: today, a significant part of professional tasks are performed in the digital environment, on digital platforms, in virtual and other meetings. This necessitates a critical reflection of traditional views on the problem of accessible environment and digital accessibility, taking into account the basic universal needs of persons with disabilities.

Methods: a gap between the traditional legal perspective on special working conditions for persons with disabilities and the urgent need of a digital workplace (digital environment) clearly shows lacunas in the understanding of accessibility, which are identified and explored with formal-legal and doctrinal methods. The multifaceted aspects of digital inclusion are revealed based on an informative approach to legislation. It leads, among other things, to searching for recommendations which would fill this gap and contribute to the creation of a more inclusive and responsible legal, social and technological environment.

Results: the research has led to a conclusion that the existing legal, social and technological paradigms need to be re-evaluated. This reevaluation should aim to develop a more inclusive and benevolent concept of accessible environment that takes into account the diversity of human experience and needs, and a wide range of behavioral and cognitive characteristics. Creating special conditions in the workplace for those with overt and covert health problems should become an integral part of the employer’s focus, along with improving management efficiency.

Scientific novelty: covert (hidden) health problems have traditionally been understudied, although they include a range of mental and physical impairments, which, like explicit health problems, vary in their origin, intensity, and permanent or episodic character. This study fills a gap in the issues of disability and its legal protection, taking into account the trend of digital inclusion, the dynamic labor activity of today, and the wide range of human abilities and needs.

Practical significance: the aspects of hidden or latent disability considered in the study provide a different perspective at employment, focusing on the workplace conditions that could be created. Employers may be unaware of the need to create special working conditions for those with hidden health problems. This results in negative effects on unemployment, increased sick leave, limited opportunities in the workplace, and more. Employees are often reluctant to disclose their non-obvious health problems to employers; hence, employers should facilitate disclosure of such information by creating relevant conditions. Such an approach will contribute to the legal protection of this category of employees and to further development of the existing legislative regulation, since the latter does not fully comply with today’s needs and changed reality.

Inazu, J. D., & Smith, J. (2021). Virtual access: A new framework for disability and human flourishing in an online world. Wisconsin Law Review, 2021(4), 719-785. 

While many commentators have noted the wealth and class disparities that emerge from the digital divide, disability adds another important lens through which to consider questions of access and equity. Online accessibility for disabled people has fallen prey to the same assumptions and impediments that led to the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) addressing disability access in the offline world. Addressing these shortcomings requires a significant conceptual shift in our understanding of “access,” even among disabled people. Offline, the sidewalk or doorway hindered access to those who needed assistance walking or moving. Today’s virtual sidewalks and doorways complicate access in fundamentally different but no less important ways.

This Article reframes the legal, normative, and theoretical dimensions of the intersection of disability and online access to suggest a more granular approach than those provided by existing judicial and scholarly interventions. Our approach sets forth three recommendations. First, we suggest greater attention to online analogues for offline legal categories that create different zones for human interaction: public forums, public accommodations, non- public spaces, and what one of us has termed “private public forums”—the privately owned venues that functionally replace the public forum, especially online. Second, contrary to the approach adopted in some jurisdictions, we propose eliminating any requirement of a physical nexus between an online site and an in-person operation. Third, we recommend directing most regulatory requirements toward three kinds of commercial entities whose power, influence, and design functionality best position them to remedy existing gaps in online disability access—entities we call design services, communication platforms, and online mediators. Design services provide browsers, operating systems, and website design tools and templates. Communication platforms connect individual users through social media and other sharing mechanisms. Online mediators aggregate information to connect customers with product and service providers. If these three kinds of companies can set design norms for individual websites and apps, much of the framework for disability access will be in place. But as we will explain, not all individual users can or should be forced to incur compliance costs related to website and application design—some small sites are properly exempted from such oversight. For this reason, we suggest that design services make disability access the baseline; that communication platforms and online mediators implement accessibility once they reach certain size or revenue thresholds; and that certain users be permitted to opt out of disability access features.

Ineland, J. (2019). Negotiating authority: Disability, interactions and power relations on Twitter. Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research, 21(1), 238-249. DOI: https://doi.org/10.16993/sjdr.591.  

Social media is often seen as an arena for negotiation of power, where marginalized voices can be given influence in the public debate. This study focuses the use of Twitter for discussions related to disabilities and disability policy in Sweden. The empirical material is gathered through the hashtag (#) “funkpol”, the primary hashtag used to discuss such topics. Empirical data was gathered using a scripted Google spreadsheet. Over a period of 6 months, approximately 10.000 tweets were retrieved. Our findings show nine different categories of twitterers. According to patterns visible in the study, the most active twitterers – the private twitterers – reached out to the established power (advocacy organizations, politicians and media). However, these instances did not respond as much as they were addressed – at least not directly on Twitter. The article shows how private actors are active but not picked up in the public debate. Instead, established power structures prevailed.

Jawed, A., Graham, H., & Smith, J. (2023). Digital trends in autism: A scoping review exploring coverage of autism across YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. Frontiers in Digital Health, 5. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3389/fdgth.2023.1222187.

Autism continues to be a leading neurobehavioral disorder and developmental disability across adult and pediatric populations that transcends racial, ethnic, age, and socioeconomic groups worldwide. Autism care and treatment also exerts immense costs on the healthcare system and lost productivity which are partly attributed to the existing resource limitations globally. Organizations, campaigns, and policies exist worldwide in increasing equity and accessibility of resources and services to individuals with autism. In the context of our digital era, a wealth of information is also more readily available on autism through electronic communication including social media platforms. As YouTube, Twitter and Facebook are ever-growing and among the leading social media platforms in contemporary times, examination of content covered on autism across these communication mediums is timely and warranted. This review consolidates findings from 32 sources on the sources, formats, and nature of content covered on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook pertaining to a wealth of dimensions surrounding autism. Strengths and limitations of the studies and endeavors are presented. Implications for future campaign development, health equity, health policy, neurodiversity, and patient care are also delineated. Lastly, recommendations for future research and practice are discussed which present directions for tapping into the potential of YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook as health communication mediums across the ever-changing autism landscape.

Johanssen, J., & Garrisi, D. (Eds.). (2020). Disability, media, and representations: Other bodies. New York: Routledge. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429469244

Bringing together scholars from around the world to research the intersection between media and disability, this edited collection aims to offer an interdisciplinary exploration and critique of print, broadcast and online representations of physical and mental impairments.

Drawing on a wide range of case studies addressing how people can be ‘othered’ in contemporary media, the chapters focus on analyses of hateful discourses about disability on Reddit, news coverage of disability and education, media access of individuals with disabilities, the logic of memes and brain tumour on Twitter, celebrity and Down Syndrome on Instagram, disability in TV drama, the metaphor of disability for the nation; as well as an autoethnography of treatment of breast cancer. Providing a much-needed global perspective, Disability, Media, and Representations examines the relationship between self-representation and representations in either reinforcing or debunking myths around disability, and ways in which academic discourse can be differently articulated to study the relationship between media and disability.

This book will be of interest to students and researchers of disability studies and media studies as well as activists and readers engaged in debates on diversity, inclusivity and the media.

Contributions include an introduction and the following chapters: 

Johansson, S., Gulliksen, J. & Gustavsson, C. (2021). Disability digital divide: The use of the internet, smartphones, computers and tablets among people with disabilities in Sweden. Universal Access in the Information Society, 20, 105-120. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10209-020-00714-x

Although Sweden is one of the most digitalized countries and the Swedish population’s use of the internet is among the most studied in the world, little is known about how Swedes with disabilities use internet. The purpose of this study is to describe use of and perceived difficulties in use of the internet among people with disabilities and to explore digital divides in-between and within disability groups, and in comparison with the general population. This is a cross-sectional survey targeting the same issues as other nationwide surveys but adapted for people with cognitive disabilities. Participants were recruited from May to October 2017 by adaptive snowball sampling. The survey comprised questions on access to and use of devices, and use of and perceived difficulties in use of internet. A total of 771 people responded to the survey, representing 35 diagnoses/impairments. Larger proportions of people with autism, ADHD and bipolar disorder reported using internet than other disability groups. Women with autism used the internet more than any other disability group, and women with aphasia used the internet the least. People with disabilities related to language and understanding reported more difficulties using internet than other disability groups. Larger proportions of participants than the general Swedish population reported not feeling digitally included. In many but not all disability groups, larger proportions of men than women reported not feeling digitally included. Our findings show that there are differences in digital inclusion between sub-groups of diagnoses/impairments. Thus, disability digital divides are preferably investigated by sub-grouping disabilities, rather than studied as one homogeneous group.

Johnson, M. R. (2019). Inclusion and exclusion in the digital economy: Disability and mental health as a live streamer on Twitch.tv. In H. Yu, G. Goggin, K. Fisher & B. Li (Eds.), Disability Participation in the Digital Economy [Special Issue]. Information, Communication & Society, 22(4), 506-520. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2018.1476575

In this paper I explore economic and inclusion opportunities for people with disabilities and mental health issues afforded by ‘live streaming’ ‒ the live broadcast of one’s activities over the internet to a globally dispersed audience. In both 2016 and 2017, the leading live streaming platform Twitch.tv broadcast over 500,000 years of video, which were produced by over two million regular broadcasters (‘streamers’), and consumed by an audience of several hundred million viewers. Streamers can profit, up to and including a full-time living ‘wage’ for those at the highest levels. Numerous successful streamers with chronic health issues have discussed the personal and professional benefits streaming brings them. Utilising data from a research project with 100 interviews, alongside approximately 500 hours of ethnographic observation, this paper examines the experiences of live streaming for broadcasters with disabilities, mental health issues, or physical health issues. Firstly, I explore the positive elements of streaming for these broadcasters, focusing on the many conditions represented in this demographic, and the benefits streaming gives for inclusion and community. Secondly, I consider the negative experiences of these streamers, focused on entanglements of health and technology that make their streaming lives potentially more challenging than their colleagues. Thirdly, I focus on the economic opportunities, and the potential for entrepreneurial activity, the platform affords. I conclude the analysis by exploring how these aspects make live streaming a potentially exemplary emancipatory and entrepreneurial space for these individuals, but not one without challenges.

Kent, M., & Ellis, K. (2015). Live music in a virtual world: Exuberant flourishing and disability at Wheelies nightclub in Second Life. In A. Jones & R. J. Bennett (Eds.), The digital evolution of live music (pp. 85-98). New York: Elsevier.

This chapter initially provides a brief background on the online virtual world Second Life and its history of virtual performance, dancing, and live music. The chapter then focuses, through Wheelies, on identity in this type of digital environment and how it interfaces with music, dance, and disability, and what happens in these spaces where an analog body is absent, but a digital body is a key part of a person’s interaction with others and the world.

Kožuh, I., & Debevc, M. (2018). Challenges in social media use among deaf and hard of hearing people. In N. Dey, R. Babo, A. Ashour, V. Bhatnagar, & M. Bouhlel (Eds.), Social Networks Science: Design, Implementation, Security, and Challenges. Cham: Springer. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-90059-9_8.

The use of social media has grown considerably in recent years, spreading to diverse areas of life, such as education. It attracted researchers to examine users with hearing loss due to their challenges in use. Even though the literature is recent and provides valuable recommendations towards overcoming these challenges, due to the rapid development of social media, they may change regularly. Consequently, stakeholders may not be aware of the appropriate interpretation of these recommendations. Thus, the chapter provides a comprehensive insight into the use of social media among the deaf and hard of hearing, along with the benefits and challenges in use. Existing recommendations towards overcoming the challenges are reviewed, and approaches for design of social media and its efficient use are proposed. The findings may serve social media developers, educators, social inclusion advisors and policy makers on how to apply social media as an inclusive tool for participation in society.

Lapierre Acevedo, M. (2023). Digital activism of women with disabilities on Instagram: Analysis of three cases in Chile. In D. F. Márquez & R. González Reyes (Eds.), Methodological discussions in digital communication studies [Special Issue]. Cuadernos.Info No. 54, 225-246. DOI: https://doi.org/10.7764/cdi.54.51207.

This article analyzes the digital activism of three Chilean women with disabilities who create content on Instagram. The ethnographic method was used to observe the content of their activity in their public profiles. The results reveal an activism that integrates educational objectives, denunciation, coalition with other groups and opinion on current national issues. Activists base their action on concepts that are related to the social model of disability, feminism, ableism, inclusion and diversity. It is concluded that digital activism is a powerful tool for the movement of people with disabilities and is part of a network of counter-ableist activisms in resistance.

Lee, S. H., & Jung, A. W. (2023). Korean American children with disabilities and their at-home distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic: Findings from a survey of parents. Journal of International Special Needs Education, 26(1), 1–12. DOI: https://doi.org/10.9782/JISNE-D-22-00005

This study investigated the at-home distance learning experiences of Korean American children with disabilities and their families during the first three months of the COVID-19 pandemic. A total of 53 Korean American parents with children with disabilities residing in Southern California completed an online survey. Results revealed that their children with disabilities did not receive all the special education and related services they were entitled to during the pandemic. Compared to the pre-pandemic period, these children received fewer hours and a smaller number of related services. The survey results further identified the lack of resources and services in the Korean language as one of the greatest related challenges. Analysis of the open-ended survey showed that language barriers and lack of teacher preparation were the main challenges of the distance learning parents utilized for their children with disabilities during the lockdown. The findings advance understanding of disparities in special education services and resources and the unique challenges of Korean American students with disabilities and their families.

Lewthwaite, S., & James, A. (2023). Hierarchies of impairment and digital disability rights. In S. Meyers, M. McCloskey, & G. Petri (Eds.), The Routledge International Handbook of Disability Human Rights Hierarchies. London: Routledge. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003410089-23

The right to accessible digital information, services and education is recognised internationally through the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRDP, 2006), but in practice, digital disability rights are enabled and constrained through regulations, technologies and the socio-cultural contexts that structure experiences of disability at a local, regional and global level. There is, however, a hierarchy in digital accessibility that is articulated in a constellation of laws, regulations and standards. This hierarchy is also reflected in use in varied contexts and, most particularly, in the Global South, where experiences of disability, digital divides and indices of digital exclusion vary widely from the implicit expectations exported in the standards-making practices of the Global North. This is not a static picture. The current trajectory of equality and digital accessibility policy, standards making and technology creates new lines along which dis/ability difference is affected, organised and re-organised.

Li, H., Bora, D., Salvi, S., & Brady, E. (2018, April). Slacktivists or activists?: Identity work in the virtual disability march. In CHI ’18: Proceedings of the 2018 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems [Paper No. 225]. New York: Association for Computing Machinery. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1145/3173574.3173799.  

Protests are important social forms of activism, but can be inaccessible to people with disabilities. Online activism, like the 2017 Disability March, has provided alternative venues for involvement in accessible protesting and social movements. In this study, we use identity theory as a lens to understand why and how disabled activists engaged in an online movement, and its impact on their self-concepts. We interviewed 18 disabled activists about their experiences with online protesting during the Disability March. Respondents’ identities (as both disabled individuals and as activists) led them to organize or join the March, evolved alongside the group’s actions, and were reprioritized or strained as a result of their involvement. Our findings describe the values and limitations of this activism to our respondents, highlight the tensions they perceived about their activist identities, and present opportunities to support further accessibility and identity changes by integrating technology into their activist experiences.

Libin, A., Schladen, M., Ljungberg, I.., Tsai, B., Jacobs, S., Reinauer, K., Minnick, S., Spungen, M., & Groah, S. (2011, Winter). YouTube as an on-line disability self-management tool in persons with spinal cord injury. Topics in Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation, 16(3), 84-92. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1310/sci1603-84.

On-line knowledge sharing of disability self-management offers a learning advantage in that it can be individualized to on-line community members’ needs. It also promotes accessibility by removing the geographic, transportation, financial, time, and distance barriers that often accompany face-to-face, patient-oriented education. A consumer-focused training project conducted at the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Spinal Cord Injury aims to promote self-management skills in persons with SCI in the areas of skin care, cardiometabolic risk reduction, and obesity prevention. The training framework incorporates a YouTube-based, shared video social network that connects participants with community-based resources necessary to achieve independence, stability, and community integration. The purpose of this article is to describe a preliminary analysis of SCI-specific educational videos posted to the YouTube Web site. It is anticipated that findings from the project will enable individuals with SCI to self-manage health and function more independently in their daily lives.

Liddiard, K. (2014). Liking for like’s sake – The commodification of disability on Facebook. Journal on Developmental Disabilities, 20(3), 94-101.

This review uses the terms “disabled people” and “disabled person” rather than people first terminology such as “people until disabilities” or “person until a disability.” This reflects the position that disability is a valued (but not sole) part of a person’s identity and that “disabled” comes from a place of pride rather than shame. I also use the term “impairment” to refer to the physiological condition of the body (I recognize this term is also both contested and contestable), and the term “disability” to refer to the social,cultural and material factors that can mediate the experience of impairment.

Liu, L. S., Huh, J., Neogi, T., Inkpen, K., & Pratt, W. (2013, April). Health vlogger-viewer interaction in chronic illness management. In CHI ’13: Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 49–58). New York: Association for Computing Machinery. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1145/2470654.2470663

Health video blogs (vlogs) allow individuals with chronic illnesses to share their stories, experiences, and knowledge with the general public. Furthermore, health vlogs help in creating a connection between the vlogger and the viewers. In this work, we present a qualitative study examining the various methods that health vloggers use to establish a connection with their viewers. We found that vloggers used genres to express specific messages to their viewers while using the uniqueness of video to establish a deeper connection with their viewers. Health vloggers also explicitly sought interaction with their viewers. Based on these results, we present design implications to help facilitate and build sustainable communities for vloggers.

Lugo Rodríguez, N. (2023). Designing for people with autism: Digital culture, ethnography, situated research. In D. F. Márquez & R. González Reyes (Eds.), Methodological discussions in digital communication studies [Special Issue]. Cuadernos.Info No. 54, 140-159. DOI: https://doi.org/10.7764/cdi.54.53197.

This article discusses the intersection of ethnography and design as a methodological approach in two studies which purpose was to design for people with pre-verbal autism and their mothers. The researcher discusses the influence and challenges of her positioning in the different stages of the research since she belongs to the group with whom and for whom the research was conducted. As a finding of the methodological implementation of these investigations, an initial framework is proposed to carry out inclusive ethnography. Finally, there is a reflection on the meaning of ethnography and design in relation to participatory action research and situated research.

Lyu, Y., & Carroll, J. M. (2023).”Because some sighted people, they don’t know what the heck you’re talking about:” A study of blind TikTokers’ infrastructuring work to build independence. arXiv:2310.07154 [cs.HC]. DOI: https://doi.org/10.48550/arXiv.2310.07154

There has been extensive research on the experiences of individuals with visual impairments on text- and image-based social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter. However, little is known about the experiences of visually impaired users on short-video platforms like TikTok. To bridge this gap, we conducted an interview study with 30 BlindTokers (the nickname of blind TikTokers). Our study aimed to explore the various activities of BlindTokers on TikTok, including everyday entertainment, professional development, and community engagement. The widespread usage of TikTok among participants demonstrated that they considered TikTok and its associated experiences as the infrastructure for their activities. Additionally, participants reported experiencing breakdowns in this infrastructure due to accessibility issues. They had to carry out infrastructuring work to resolve the breakdowns. Blind users’ various practices on TikTok also foregrounded their perceptions of independence. We then discussed blind users’ nuanced understanding of the TikTok-mediated independence; we also critically examined BlindTokers’ infrastructuring work for such independence.

Mamo, Y., & Haegele, J. A. (2023, Fall) “I’m Not Your Inspiration, Thank You Very Much”: Social Media Users’ Engagement with Stella Young’s TED Talk. The Journal of Social Media in Society, 12(2), 264-280. 

The development of interactive social media platforms has expanded how disability is communicated or shared with the public. Despite the potential of social media to challenge and educate nondisabled people’s understanding of disability, little empirical research has been conducted in this area. In this study, we analyzed comments from a YouTube video from a seminal TED Talk by the late Australian disability rights activist, educator, and comedian Stella Young. The video titled “I’m not your inspiration, thank you very much | Stella Young” had accumulated 1,374,878 views, 22,000 likes, and 975 interactions (comments and responses) at the time of the analysis. Our findings suggest that most individuals who left public comments on the video viewed it favorably. They identified as being connected to, in agreement with, or being (un)ironically inspired by Young’s talk. However, approximately 14% explicitly disagreed with Young’s ideas during her TED Talk, and 7% directly criticized her ideas or appearance. Comments like these reproduce and perpetuate the same types of oppression and marginalization that occur in society.

Manco, Y. C., Escribano, J. G., & Collazos, C. A. (2023). Accessibility limitations of video conference tools for people with cognitive disabilities during COVID-19. In 2023 18th Iberian Conference on Information Systems and Technologies (CISTI), Aveiro, Portugal, 2023 (pp. 1-4). DOI: https://doi.org/10.23919/CISTI58278.2023.10211378

COVID-19 outbreak has changed the learning paradigm towards a remote mode where video conferencing tools play a greater role. However, this approach presents accessibility issues for inclusive learning for people with cognitive disabilities. This study sought the experiences of relatives and autism spectrum disorder experts in using video conferencing tools for online learning throughout the pandemic. The data was collected through a survey and a thematic analysis was applied to identify the main accessibility factors that affected this group. Themes identified were: (i) complex UI (user interface), (ii) design for autonomy, and (iii) attention management. This study highlights the accessibility barriers of video tools for people on the spectrum and provide some suggestions to overcome them.

Mann, B. W. (2018, December). Rhetoric of online disability activism: #CripTheVote and civic participation. Communication, Culture and Critique, 11(4), 604-621. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/ccc/tcy030

Contemporary social movement scholarship has increasingly concerned itself with forms of digital activism from outlets such as Twitter toward communication and social change. However, the implications of this new activism for defining “social movement,” including the term’s historical emphasis on embodiment, deserve further inquiry. In response, this article focuses on the Twitter campaign, #CripTheVote. The campaign is an exemplar of activism that expands upon what constitutes social movement to include new forms of digital expression in ways that uniquely address the concerns of disabled populations and challenge the compulsory able-bodiedness of “movement” necessitating embodiment. Major themes of accommodation information, candidate awareness, and voter pride demonstrate that members of the campaign simultaneously encourage participation in normative systems of democratic engagement (i.e., voting) along with efforts at broader ideological change (i.e., placing greater awareness on disability issues in society) within the #CripTheVote hashtag campaign, therefore constituting new forms of social movement.

Meads, T. (2022, December). The autosomamediality of neurodivergent folks’ Facebook pages. Australasian Journal of Popular Culture, 11(1-2), 27-43. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1386/ajpc_00049_1

This article employs life narrative scholarship to examine four neurodivergent (ND) folks’ public Facebook (FB) pages that are making important contributions to the growing representation of ND culture in online spaces and social media. It argues that the participatory, networked, digital, online space of FB facilitates autobiographical acts at the intersection of automedia and autosomatography, where the latter finds its most realized form, and where these multimodal, connected, dynamic manifestations of disabled lives are best defined by an elision of the two terms (automedia and autosomatography): autosomamedia.

Meads, T. (2022, December). The autosomamediality of neurodivergent folks’ Facebook pages. In L. Piatti-Farnell, G. Peaty, & A. Prosser (Eds.), Evolving identities in popular culture [Special Issue]. Australasian Journal of Popular Culture, 11(1-2), 27-43. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1386/ajpc_00049_1

This article employs life narrative scholarship to examine four neurodivergent (ND) folks’ public Facebook (FB) pages that are making important contributions to the growing representation of ND culture in online spaces and social media. It argues that the participatory, networked, digital, online space of FB facilitates autobiographical acts at the intersection of automedia and autosomatography, where the latter finds its most realized form, and where these multimodal, connected, dynamic manifestations of disabled lives are best defined by an elision of the two terms (automedia and autosomatography): autosomamedia.

Meekosha, H. (2002). Virtual activists? Women and the making of identities of disability. Hypatia 17(3), 67-88.

This article examines the rise of a feminist engagement with the disability rights movement. Three realms of social being—individual, society, and the state—interact in the making of the identities of disability. The emergence of Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA), suggests the ways women with disabilities come to identify with an autonomous women’s group and the ways in which the particular forms of our activisms are produced.

Meleo-Erwin, Z., Kollia, B., Fera, J., Jahren, A., & Basch, C. (2021). Online support information for students with disabilities in colleges and universities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Disability and Health Journal, 14(1), 101013. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dhjo.2020.101013.   

Background: The COVID-19 pandemic necessitated a rapid shift to remote instruction. This may have caused particular challenges for students with disabilities.

Objective: We aimed to describe the availability of remote instruction and counseling resources on the disability/accessibility websites of colleges and universities in the greater New York City area. At the time this study was conducted, this region was the global COVID-19 epicenter.

Methods: All colleges/universities in the New York City metropolitan area were identified using Petersen’s online search guide. Descriptive information (institution’s name, size, and location) was recorded. The disability/accessibility pages of websites were located and examined for remote instructional resources for both educators and for students, a way to make an appointment with the counseling center (phone number and/or email address), and a link to the counseling center. Descriptive statistics were recorded (percentages of small, medium, large size institutions, mean, median, range and standard deviations of enrollments, and number and percentage of institutions that provided online accessibility resources) and one-sided Chi square tests were conducted to test the relationship between school size and the availability of resources.

Result: 17% of the colleges/universities had no link to disability/accessibility services on their websites. Of the remaining 127 institutions, few made the aforementioned resources available on the disability/accessibility page. The most prevalent resource observed was providing students with remote instruction assistance. The association between school size and the aforementioned resources was not statistically significant.

Conclusion: Making information available to students with disabilities is a fundamental part of accessibility in higher education. Doing so is all the more necessary given the challenges wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic, challenges which are likely to continue for years to come.

Miller, R.A. (2017). “My voice is definitely strongest in online communities”: Students using social media for queer and disability identity-making. Journal of College Student Development, 58(4), 509-525. DOI: http://doi.org/10.1353/csd.2017.0040

In this qualitative study I explored the social media activities of 25 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer students with disabilities at a research-intensive university. Using a framework of identity-making that accounts for students’ reflections, narrations, and actions, I detail students’ experiences exploring queer/disability identities through social networking sites, smartphone applications, and blogs. Students described going online to find validation, become involved, and manage identities contextually; however, students also described experiencing marginalization online and feeling isolated, suggesting implications for higher education, including the need to critically evaluate students’ online engagement.

Mitchell, F. R., Santarossa, S., Ramawickrama, I. L., Rankin, E. F., Yaciuk, J. A., McMahon, E. R., & van Wyk, P. M. (2019). An evaluation of social media images portrayal of disability discourse: #amputeefitness. European Journal of Adapted Physical Activity, 12(2), DOI: https://doi.org/10.5507/euj.2019.010

The widespread use and influential impact of social media has made it increasingly important to analyze the social norms and discourses that are being presented and promoted among social media users. Thus, the purpose of this study was to examine whether the conversation and images associated with #amputeefitness on Instagram promoted the medical model discourse (i.e., a focus on aesthetic) or the social model of disability discourse (i.e., a focus on adapted physical activity). Using the Netlytic software, all publicly available Instagram media tagged with #amputeefitness were collected, and a text and image analysis were performed. The text analysis revealed that the conversation was positive or neutral and focused on four themes: community, motivation, aesthetic, and physical activity. The image analysis suggested an emphasis was placed on body structure (i.e., having an acceptable appearance) and physical activity. Although there was evidence of the medical model within the posts associated with #amputeefitness, there was a stronger indication of a shift towards the social model of disability discourse. 

Mitchell, F. R., van Wyk, P. M., & Santarossa, S. (2021). Curating a culture: The portrayal of disability stereotypes by paralympians on Instagram. International Journal of Sport Communication, 14(3), 334-355. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1123/ijsc.2021-0030

Through user-generated posts on Instagram, Paralympians’ self-presentation may mitigate stereotypes associated with disability, counteracting negative assumptions. Using content analyses and paired t tests, visual content posted by Paralympians was examined for the portrayal of disability stereotypes. Compared with the social media content of able-bodied athletes, which typically focus on personal and lifestyle aspects, the majority of the Paralympians’ visual content depicted them engaged in sport or fitness-related activities. By posting content that depicts physical competence and elite abilities, Paralympians may change the narrative to promote the capabilities of athletes with a disability. Through the portrayal of sport and exercise engagement on social media platforms, these Paralympians are potentially mitigating disability stereotypes with the intent to curate a culture that is more accepting and inclusive.

Molin, M. , Sorbring, E., & Lotta Löfgren-Mårtenson, L. (2017). New em@ncipatory landscapes? Young people with intellectual disabilities, internet use, and identification processes. Advances in Social Work, 18(2). DOI: https://doi.org/10.18060/21428

Although research on young people’s identification processes on the Internet is a growing field, few studies illustrate conditions for young people with intellectual disabilities (ID). Previous studies have shown that young people with ID are worried about being marginalized, and that many in fact are lonelier than other young people. Internet and social networking sites might be of vital importance as a space for exploring alternative and less stigmatized identities. This article reports findings from individual interviews with 27 young people with ID in Sweden. The transcribed interviews were analyzed using a thematic content analysis. A prominent finding concerned the informants being well aware of both risks and opportunities using Internet and Social Networking Sites. Consequently, the more they interacted with non-disabled peers, the more they experienced negative consequences of Internet use. These circumstances rather lead to downsizing than upsizing Internet use, and less participation on Social Networking Sites. The experiences of the informants are discussed in a conceptual framework of social identity, participation, and emancipation. We recommend that social work practitioners reflect upon the ways that support can be arranged in order to empower young people with ID to participate on the Internet.

Moriña, A., Carballo, R., & Castellano-Beltran, A. (2023). A systematic review of the benefits and challenges of technologies for the learning of university students with disabilities. Journal of Special Education Technology. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/01626434231175357.

This systematic review explores the benefits and difficulties of using technology for the learning of university students with disabilities in both face-to-face and distance learning. Three databases were searched: ERIC, Scopus and Web of Science. The review included 14 articles that met all the inclusion criteria. All the included articles were qualitative studies involving 240 students and 143 faculty members. The data were analyzed using an inductive system of categories and codes. The results are organized around five themes: characteristics of the studies, technological resources most commonly used in university teaching, benefits of technology for learning, difficulties in using technology, and valuation of virtual teaching environments. The discussion and conclusions highlight the positive aspects of technology in the learning of students with disabilities, and warn of the need to improve faculty training and inclusive policies to ensure an effective and accessible use of technology.

Morris, R. (2013) ‘Unjust, inhumane and highly inaccurate’: The impact of changes to disability benefits and services – Social media as a tool in research and activism. Disability & Society, 28(5), 724-728. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09687599.2013.808093.

This article details research carried out as part of an MA in Social Research at the University of Leeds (UK). The research was concerned with two key issues: documenting the impact of recent cuts in benefits and services on disabled people; and the role of disabled people’s organisations in responding to this impact. It also explored the use of social media in recruiting research participants. Working with Hammersmith and Fulham Action on Disability, the experiences of 95 disabled people were gathered using focus groups and an online questionnaire distributed via social media. The use of social media to gather participants is something I felt was particularly interesting in relation to disabled people, especially in light of social media’s role in current disability rights campaigns, and a method I feel should be explored further.

Mulderink, C. E. (2020). The emergence, importance of #DisabilityTooWhite hashtag. In B. Brueggemann & E. Brewer Olson (Eds.), Movements and Autopathographies [Special Issue]. Disability Studies Quarterly, 40(2). DOI: https://doi.org/10.18061/dsq.v40i2.6484

In this essay, I look at #DisabilityTooWhite (Thompson, 2016) as an activist call to center the messy intersectionality politics in the disability community, specifically in terms of disability and Whiteness. I center my theoretical commitments within the realm of DisCrit (Disability/Critical Race Theory) to critique the interplay of race (ism) and ability (ableism). I further utilize thematic textual analysis to study the content that has been posted by Twitter users under the #DisabilityTooWhite hashtag. I use an inductive approach to my analyses by drawing themes from my research that fall in line with DisCrit’s central commitments as a means to deepen the conversations about disability, Whiteness, and social media.

Nandy, R. (2023). Networked chronic pain narratives: Locating disability through fibromyalgia Facebook community. In T. Ghosal (Ed.), Global Perspectives on Digital Literature: A Critical Introduction for the Twenty-First Century. New York: Routledge. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003214915-8.   

The emergence of social networking sites has greatly transformed the concept of autobiography. This chapter studies the Facebook community page Women with Fibromyalgia as a form of digital pain narrative with reference to the fields of feminist disability studies and autobiography studies. A Facebook community space can be understood as a life narrative written through the interaction of several authors and readers. This chapter discusses how a private community space such as Women with Fibromyalgia structures a narrative based around the female body in the context of disability. Women’s experience of chronic pain creates a community linked together by the idea of double marginalisation.

Narayanan Venkit, P., Srinath, M., & Wilson, S. (2023). Automated ableism: An exploration of explicit disability biases in sentiment and toxicity analysis models. In Proceedings of the 3rd Workshop on Trustworthy Natural Language Processing (TrustNLP 2023) (pp. 26–34). Toronto: Association for Computational Linguistics. DOI: https://doi.org/10.18653/v1/2023.trustnlp-1.3.  

We analyze sentiment analysis and toxicity detection models to detect the presence of explicit bias against people with disability (PWD). We employ the bias identification framework of Perturbation Sensitivity Analysis to examine conversations related to PWD on social media platforms, specifically Twitter and Reddit, in order to gain insight into how disability bias is disseminated in real-world social settings. We then create the Bias Identification Test in Sentiment (BITS) corpus to quantify explicit disability bias in any sentiment analysis and toxicity detection models. Our study utilizes BITS to uncover significant biases in four open AIaaS (AI as a Service) sentiment analysis tools, namely TextBlob, VADER, Google Cloud Natural Language API, DistilBERT and two toxicity detection models, namely two versions of Toxic-BERT. Our findings indicate that all of these models exhibit statistically significant explicit bias against PWD.

Németh, R., Sik, D., Zaboretzky, B., & Katona, E. (2023). Depression in times of a pandemic: The impact of COVID-19 on the lay discourses of e-mental health communities. Information, Communication & Society. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2023.2222168.

The article aims at exploring the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the lay discourses of depression emerging in online mental health forums. The narrative framing of depression plays a central role not only because it affects the instrumental strategies of depressed people (e.g., preferred therapy), but also because it is a constitutive element of the identity of depressed people, thus affects the process of recovery itself. COVID-19 had a serious impact on people living with mental disorders (especially depression and anxiety), thus our research aimed at mapping the consequences of these transformations on a discursive level. A textual dataset of English language online health forums was collected (n = 339,550 publicly available entries posted between 15 February 2016 and 31 December 2020). Structural topic modelling was used to explore the various discursive patterns characterizing the pre-pandemic and pandemic era. Our results show that the pandemic did not take over the discursive space of depression forums, yet it transformed many aspects of it: a new horizon of critique opened up; the biomedical authority was reinforced; the ego-centric perspectives were refined; the previously unquestionable discursive frames become fragmented; and the horizon of emergency overshadowed the previous risk perspective.

Newman, L., Browne-Yung, K., Raghavendra, P., Wood, D., & Grace, E. (2017, September). Applying a critical approach to investigate barriers to digital inclusion and online social networking among young people with disabilities. Information Systems Journal, 27(5), 559-588. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/isj.12106

Despite the seeming ubiquity of young people’s Internet use, there are still many for whom access to the Internet and online social networking remains inequitable and patterned by disadvantage. The connection between information technology and young people with disabilities is particularly under-researched. This article contributes to the field of critical information systems research by exposing significant barriers and facilitators to Internet accessibility for young people with disabilities. It uses Bourdieu’s critical theory to explore how the unequal distribution of resources shapes processes of digital inclusion for young people with disabilities. It highlights access needs and experiences that are both disability and non-disability related. The article draws on interviews in South Australia with 18 young people aged 10–18 years with a physical disability (such as cerebral palsy) or acquired brain injury and with 17 of their family members. Interviews evaluated participants’ and parents’ reflections on the benefits of a home-based, goal-oriented intervention to increase the young person’s Internet use for social participation purposes. The Bourdieuian analysis demonstrated how varying levels of accrued individual and family offline capital resources are related to digital/online resources and disability-specific online resources. This revealed how unequal resources of capital can influence technology use and hence digital inclusion for young people with disabilities. Our study demonstrates that young people with particular types of disabilities require intensive, personalised and long-term support from within and beyond the family to ‘get online’. We conclude that Internet studies need to more frequently adopt critical approaches to investigate the needs of users and barriers to information technology use within sub-groups, such as young people with disabilities.

Nurfikria, I. (2023). Exploring participatory culture among persons with disability: A case study on #stopaudism. Jurnal Studi Komunikasi, 7(3), 813-836. 

This study examines the participatory culture of persons with disabilities in Indonesia by analysing their engagement in hashtag activism on Instagram. The selected hashtag, #stopaudism, gained prominence in response to an incident involving the Minister of Social Affairs, Tri Rismaharini, who compelled Deaf persons to speak during an event commemorating the National Day of Disabilities on 1 December 2021. This research employs a mixed-method approach, combining web scraping techniques with thematic analysis, and draws upon Henry Jenkins’s participatory culture theory to analyse Instagram posts featuring the #stopaudism hashtag by persons with disabilities. The web scraping techniques successfully tracked trends in the #stopaudism hashtag, revealing a notable surge on December 2nd and 3rd, 2021, and highlighted posts with the highest likes and comments. Thematic analysis unveiled six strategies employed by persons with disabilities on Instagram to participate actively in hashtag activism: education, self-disclosure, declaration of hashtag activism, expression of anger or disappointment, presentation of evidence/media coverage, and invitations to sign petitions.

Osman, K., Marshall, A., Hourigan, A., & Malcolm, F. (2023). Issues paper: Digital inclusion, disability and housing. Brisbane, Australia: Digital Media Research Centre, Queensland University of Technology.

This issues paper brings together insights from two research projects undertaken by the Queensland University of Technology’s (QUT) Digital Media Research Centre’s (DMRC) Digital Inclusion and Participation program, primarily in 2021-23:  

  1. Developing digital inclusion programs in community contexts, in partnership with Queenslanders with Disability Network (QDN); and 
  2. ARC Linkage: Advancing digital inclusion in low-income families in Australia, in partnership with The Smith Family, Good Things Foundation Australia, Infoxchange, yourtown, and Digital Literacy Foundation. 

The purpose is to communicate relevant findings from these projects that form a new research agenda to policymakers, sector leaders, relevant stakeholders, and participant organisations. It focuses on intersecting issues related to digital inclusion, disability, and housing, which emerged as priority areas requiring further investigation, understanding, and intervention in pursuit of closing the digital divide in Australian communities.  We draw attention to the need for deeper consideration of barriers to digital inclusion at three levels:  

  1. Infrastructural challenges relating to access to reliable, affordable digital connections, devices, and data;
  2. Organisational challenges relating to capacity and capabilities of social infrastructure that works to support people in social and community housing and living with a disability; and
  3. Individual challenges relating to opportunities for digital skilling and participation.  

These insights inform a proposed research agenda to drive best practices for developing community-led digital inclusion interventions in Australia and beyond.

Osuna, A., Sabini, K., Yamane, E., Flores, J., Pierce, N., Lemus-Valle, J., & Ty Vernon, T. (2023). Socialization, Education, and Learning for the Internet (SELFI): A pilot RCT of a social media skills group program for autistic adults. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-023-06100-9

Many autistic adults report preference for computer-mediated communication and social media use. Despite many benefits to online socialization, there are many challenges including anxiety and cyber-victimization. To date, support is limited related to helping autistic adults with safe and effective internet use. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary efficacy of the novel SELFI program. This pilot study utilized a randomized controlled trial design. A total of 25 autistic adults enrolled in the study and were randomized to the nine-week SELFI program or a waitlist control condition. Feasibility assessed enrollment, attrition, and fidelity of delivery. Acceptability examined attendance and feedback from participants and peer mentors. Efficacy evaluated change in Facebook activity, social media utility/anxiety, and individualized goals. Regarding feasibility, the recruitment goal was met within one month, there was limited attrition, and therapists delivered the program with high fidelity. Participants attended a majority of scheduled sessions and feedback from participants reflected high levels of agreement with several facets of the program. Compared to the control group, more participants assigned to the SELFI condition were perceived by autistic and non-autistic raters as having improved Facebook activity. SELFI participants also reported reduced difficulty meeting their individualized goal. Findings support the piloted SELFI program as feasible and acceptable with signals of preliminary efficacy. This study establishes an exciting foundation regarding an innovative social media skills program, however more research is necessary.

Pacheco, E., Yoong, P., & Lips, M. (2019). Transition issues in higher education and digital technologies: The experiences of students with disabilities in New Zealand. Disability & Society, 36(2), 179-201. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09687599.2020.1735305

Research on transition to higher education and young people with disabilities has increased in recent years. However, there is still limited understanding of transition issues and how digital technologies, such as social media and mobile devices, are used by this group of students to manage these issues. This article presents the findings of an empirical study that addressed this matter based on young people’s views and experiences. The qualitative study was conducted in the context of a group of students with vision impairments transitioning to a New Zealand university. The findings draw from observations, a researcher diary, focus groups, individual interviews, and data from social media. The study shows that, like their non-disabled peers, the students actively engaged with interactive and collaborative digital technologies to make sense, individually and collectively, of different transition issues before, during and after the first academic trimester of their university journey.

Palmer, S., & Stevens, B. (2023, Spring). Corona look of the day: Social media posts about disabled beauty and resistance in the time of COVID-19. In A. Patsavas & T. Danylevich (Eds.), Crip Pandemic Life: A Tapestry [Special Section]. Lateral, 12(1). 

The authors created a photo and essay series entitled “Corona Look of the Day.” Each day we took photos of outfits paired with colorful makeup and inspired text descriptions about the beauty in disability. These posts were formulated as resistance to the eugenic discourse pervading the early days of the pandemic that argued disabled and elderly deaths were acceptable and probable. In contrast to this bleak assessment, this artistic series sought to affirm disability through uplifting portraiture.

Parsloe, S. M. (2015). Discourses of disability, narratives of community: Reclaiming an autistic identity online. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 43(3), 336-356. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/00909882.2015.1052829.

As increasing rates of autism diagnosis generate media interest, the autism community is bombarded with various disability discourses. Using netnographic methods, I explored how members of one online community, Aspies Central (AC), engaged these discourses to communicatively (re)claim a positive autistic identity. By assessing 561 posts on AC’s forums, interviewing 10 individuals who frequent online communities, and interacting extensively with two informants, I located reclaiming discourses that allowed community members to shift their understanding of autism from a biomedical to a cultural perspective. Through these discourses, community members reclaimed (a) normalcy, (b) symptoms, and (c) agency. In this paper, I discuss implications for the narrative construction of disability identities and the activation of self-advocacy movements.

Pozas, M., & Letzel-Alt, V. (2023, October). Coping with distance learning during COVID-19 and its impact on students’ emotional experiences: Differences between students with and without special education needs. Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs, 23(4), 354-364. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/1471-3802.12605.

Given the almost 2-year COVID-19 school-related closure in Mexico, children and adolescents have experienced a negative impact not only on their learning, but as well as on their mental health and well-being. Although international research has shown that distant learning as a response to the COVID-19 school-related closures has severely affected  students with special education needs, there is still a lack of studies conducted in Mexico.  Thus, this study attempts to tackle this gap by exploring how Mexican students with and without special education needs coped with distance learning as well as its impact on their emotional experiences. A total of 293 Mexican lower secondary students participated in the  study. Independent sample t- tests indicated that, in comparison with students without special needs, students with special needs coped significantly worse during distance learning as well  as had  higher  levels  of  negative  activation.  Additionally,  multiple  linear  regression analyses revealed that students’ self-efficacy functioned as an important coping mechanism. Implications of the results, as well as further lines of research are discussed.

Preston, J. (2023). Never go full potato: Discourses of ableism and sexism in “I Can Count to Potato” memes. In M. S. Jeffress, J. M. Cypher, J. Ferris, & J. A. Scott-Pollock (Eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Disability and Communication. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-14447-9_16.  

In 2012, Heidi Crowter, a young woman with Down syndrome, made a simple public appeal: stop using her image as part of an ableist meme. Social media users bristled to Crowter’s plea, initiating a new flurry of memetic generation that reasserted ableist imagination of cognitive impairment; the simulacra of cognitive impairment is simply truer to reality than Crowter’s claims. Situated at the intersection of discourse analysis and Internet archeology, this chapter tracks the evolution of the phrase “I can count to potato,” considering the meme as linguistic response to “Stop the R-Word” campaigns and analyzes memetic ephemera as Baudrillardian simulacra. From this perspective, the chapter considers the ways Internet memes co-opt identities, converting people into objects imbued with hyperreal meaning.

Próchniak, J.,  Płoska R., Komorowska, O., & Raca, K. (2023). Sustainability communication on Twitter: Disability disclosures of listed companies in Poland. JoMS, 53(4), 419-436. DOI: https://doi.org/10.13166/jms/175990

Objectives: A rapidly growing corporate use of social media can support corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability advocacy of listed companies enhancing the positive image of people with disabilities and social inclusion. Emphasizing CSR towards people with disability (D), abbreviated CSR+D or CSR-D, is customary. The aim of the study is to examine the use of Twitter to highlight advocacy efforts for people with disabilities by the sixty best sustainability-oriented WSE listed companies in Poland.

Material and methods: We examined keywords and their popularity and context using topic modeling and text mining based on corporate tweets. Tweets’ topics were extracted using the DMM model from 154,496 company media uploads. Then, the occurring themes were determined.

Results: The results indicate a very limited promotion of CSR activities on Twitter. Accordingly, also limited use of Twitter in communicating disability with no diffusion of topics was observed, despite an overall increase of corporate social media use. Disability issues were far more often communicated for high-profile events related to disability. Only a few tweets appeared on Down syndrome, with more frequent tweets referring to visual, hearing, or autism disorders. However, tweets about disability receive more users’ reactions and gain a wider audience than, for example those related to seniors or climate. More results on topics and their popularity due to the sector, time and accompanying events were included.

Conclusions: The research contributes to understanding of the evolving social media tools and their corporate whereas there is limited or paid access to data.

Pullen, E., Mora, L., & Silk, M. (2023). Paralympic cripvertising: On the gendered self-representations of Paralympic athletes on social media. New Media & Society. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/14614448231173882.

Paralympic athletes are increasingly using social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok to self-represent and engage audiences in disability counter narratives that resist dominant disability stereotypes. This is particularly the case at the intersection of gender and sexuality where social media is being harnessed to visibly reclaim gendered and sexualised disabled identities in new and diverse ways. In this article, we advance scholarship on female Paralympic athletes’ self-representational practices through an intersectional visual media analysis of the most popular female British Paralympic athlete Instagram pages. We capture a particular trend in Paralympic athletes’ self-representational practices, termed cripvertising, that intersects with gendered heteronormative scripts centred on neoliberal ableism, kinship normativity and consumption (‘branding’) capabilities. We discuss the contradictions and complexities of Paralympians self-representations and their role in relation to the subversive, pedagogical and emancipatory potential for shaping new disability media narratives, disabled (online) normativity and representational politics.

Qayyum, A., Ahmed Jamil, R., Muhammad Shah, A., & Lee, K. (2023, November). Inclusive advertising featuring disability on Instagram: Effect on consumer well-being, brand engagement, and purchase intention. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 75, 103515. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jretconser.2023.103515

Should advertisers continue to promote their brands through brand endorsers without considering their diverse characteristics, or should they embrace diversity in advertising? Gender, age, ethnicity, and sexual orientation are some of the aspects of diversity that have been investigated in advertising research, primarily in the context of Western and developed countries. However, it remains underexplored how physical disabilities in influencer advertising on Instagram affect consumer well-being and consumers’ responses toward brands in a non-Western market. Through an experimental design (including both inclusive and non-inclusive samples), this study examined the effects of inclusive advertising (including disabled persons) on consumer well-being (both hedonic and eudaimonic), brand engagement, and purchase intention. Two studies were conducted to test the hypotheses. In Study 1 (shampoo brand case), a data analysis of 260 young Pakistani consumers revealed that inclusive (vs non-inclusive) advertisements enhance both hedonic well-being (HWB) and eudaimonic well-being (EWB), with a stronger effect for EWB. The spillover effects of EWB and HWB indicated a significant influence on brand engagement and purchase intention, whereas the effect of HWB is significant only on brand engagement. The effects of HWB on brand engagement and of EWB on purchase intention showed a greater influence in the case of inclusive advertisements than in traditional non-inclusive advertisements. In Study 2 (clothing brand case), an analysis of 235 respondents revealed that inclusive advertising drives both HWB and EWB, which have a greater influence on brand engagement and purchase intention when individuals are exposed to an inclusive advertisement featuring disabled persons than a non-inclusive one. These studies confirm that inclusive advertisements attract a more diverse customer base in addition to existing customers. These findings offer theoretical and practical insights for advertising and consumer research.

Raffone, A. (2022). “Her leg didn’t fully load in”: A digitally-mediated social-semiotic critical discourse analysis of disability hate speech on TikTok. In B. Hughes & M. C. Nisco (Eds.), Special Issue on Disability, Shame and Discrimination. International Journal of Language Studies, 16(4), 17-42.

Hate Speech Online (HSO) seems to be the result of the degeneration of the ’freedom of expression’ into the ‘freedom for discrimination’ that finds its major amplification on social media where some people use anonymity as a tool to exercise power and dominance over other people. Drawing on a digitally-mediated Social-Semiotic Critical Discourse Analysis, this study investigates a specific, under-researched form of HSO, namely Disability Hate Speech (DHS) by analysing a corpus of comments retrieved from a video of a famous amputee TikToker spreading awareness on disability. The results unveil and explain that people’s discriminatory practices and intolerant attitudes towards people with impairments are based on deep-rooted mental models and beliefs that contribute to increasing the stigmatization against them, thus paving the way to intersectional hateful discourses that create disability through the process of ‘othering’ by naming what is normal/ abnormal according to the dichotomy able-bodiedness/disability. Accordingly, this paper aims to contribute to the emerging literature of studies on disability discourse with a specific perspective on DHS.

Raghavendra, P., Newman, L., Grace, E.,  & Wood, D. (2013, July). ‘I could never do that before’: effectiveness of a tailored Internet support intervention to increase the social participation of youth with disabilities. In P. Raghavendra (Ed.), Participation of children with disabilities: Measuring subjective and objective outcomes [Special Issue]. Child: Care, Health and Development, 39(4), 552-561. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/cch.12048

Background: Youth use the Internet for a variety of purposes including social networking. Youth with disabilities are limited in their social networks and friendships with peers. The aim was to investigate the effectiveness of tailored one-on-one support strategies designed to facilitate social participation of youth with disabilities through the use of the Internet for social networking.

Methods: Eighteen youth aged 10–18 years with cerebral palsy, physical disability or acquired brain injury received support, training and assistive technology at their home to learn to use the Internet for building social networks. The Canadian Occupational Performance Measure (COPM) and Goal Attainment Scale (GAS) were used to evaluate objective changes in performance and satisfaction. Interviews with the youth identified subjective changes they experienced through participation in the programme and to determine whether and how the intervention influenced their social participation.

Results: Youth showed an increase in performance and satisfaction with performance on identified goals concerning social networking on the COPM; Paired T-test showed that these differences were statistically significant at P < 0.001. GAS T-scores demonstrated successful outcomes (>50) for 78% of the youth. Interviews showed that youth were positive about the benefits of hands-on training at home leading to increased use of the Internet for social networking.

Conclusions: The Internet could be a viable method to facilitate social participation for youth with disabilities. Youth identified the benefits of one-to-one support at home and training of the family compared with typical group training at school. Despite its success with this group of youth, the time and effort intensive nature of this approach may limit the viability of such programmes. Further longitudinal research should investigate whether Internet use is sustained post intervention, and to identify the factors that best support ongoing successful and safe use.

Raun, T. & Christensen-Strynø, M. B. (2022). ‘We belong to something beautiful’: Julie Vu’s and Madeline Stuart’s use of minority identity as a popular feminist self-branding strategy on Instagram. Information, Communication & Society, 25(12), 1790-1807. DOI https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2021.1889638.

This article analyses the use of minority identity as a popular feminist self-branding strategy on Instagram. Zooming in on the internet celebrities, Julie Vu, a Canadian transgender model, beauty queen and makeup artist, and Madeline Stuart, an Australian photo/runway model with Down syndrome, we explore the ways in which they both engage in building and strengthening their self-branding practices by actively drawing on their own self-representational identity work as minorities. We situate Vu and Stuart within a framework of contemporary branding culture and popular feminism, and map their journeys as users of different social media platforms, as well as their locations within online celebrity categories, leading to an analysis of their current engagements with Instagram as their main self-branding platform. The article argues that minority identity, as it is expressed in the cases of Vu and Stuart, has become a significant, if not essential, element in the broader landscape of self-branding practices and strategies on social media.

Reinke, R., & Todd, A. (2014). “Cute Girl in Wheelchair—Why?”: Cripping YouTube. Transformations: The Journal of Inclusive Scholarship and Pedagogy, 25(2), 168-174. DOI: http://doi.org/10.1353/tnf.2014.0029

Channels like that of Kaley Vides—better known by her channel title, “Kaley Kutie”—are prime examples of young people using YouTube to (re)create the meanings of commonsense notions—of youth, of gender, and of disability—out of their everyday lived experience. Kaley’s channel includes both informative and “silly” videos, ranging from 6 to 36 minutes long, forming a collective archive that often directly addresses her transgender and disabled subjectivities. In addition to documenting the “journey” of Kaley’s “everyday life,” some of her most-watched videos include question and answer sessions about being transgender and about her particular disability, and among the most popular, “Tip &Tricks: Makeup Tips for Physical Disabled Women.”1 Putting these lived experiences at the forefront of a Disability Studies curriculum can make the classroom an interactive space for action, reaction, and for deeper affective understanding of disabled subjectivities” (p. 168).

Richter, Z. (2019). Queer-crip.blog: A virtual ethnographic comparison of social media movement-building techniques used by queer and disabled activists. In K. Soldatic & K. Johnson (Eds.), Global perspectives on disability activism and advocacy: Our way. London: Routledge. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781351237499-13

This chapter intentionally uses the language of ‘LGBT’ in order to ground social movements-oriented analysis in the histories of resistance that have taken shape most prominently in US politics, such as the Stonewall riot, AIDS drama and the transgender tipping point. It engages the internet as a series of literal places of social organization. The chapter argues that the layer of anonymity provided by networked societies and communication aid the growth of alterity cultures. It emphasizes a distinction between smaller serial blogs and ‘thinkpiece’ blogs or blog-essays that make a complete point in a short space. Networked deviancies discussion cultures allow for the expansive growth of responses to and uses of formerly insular language regarding specific identity formations and the invocation of those formations in subcultural venues. Flash blogs or planned group blogging events scheduled for specific dates and topics have been used repeatedly to address different problems with the current conversation about disability.

Ritzman, M. J., & Subramanian, R. (2023). Voices from a pandemic: Understanding how young adults on the autism spectrum use computer-mediated communication. Autism OnlineFirst. https://doi.org/10.1177/13623613231170963

This study investigated the benefits and challenges of computer-mediated communication use among a sample of young adults who identify with the autism spectrum via semistructured interviews. The interviews revealed that participants enjoyed using computer-mediated communication technologies (e.g. Discord, Facebook, Steam, and Zoom) to fulfill various social gratifications, as found in previous research. They appreciated that computer-mediated communication supports neurodiversity in social communication by altering the communication environment in various ways, such as the inclusion of asynchronous options and decreased sensory input. However, it is noteworthy that several mentioned that computer-mediated communication could not replace in-person interaction because it makes deep social connection difficult. Participants also discussed negative attributes of computer-mediated communication such as promoting social comparison and instant gratification. The findings are inherently valuable to learning more about young adults’ use of technology for social communication. In addition, they provide insight into how to integrate technology into the design of interventions to support the development of social connections among individuals who identify with autism.

Robinson, L., Schulz, J., Khilnani, A., Ono, H., Cotten, S. R., McClain, N., Lloyd Levine, L., Chen, W., Huang, G., Casilli, A. A., Tubaro, P., Dodel, M., Quan-Haase, A., Ruiu, M. L., Ragnedda, M., Aikat, D., & Tolentino, N. (2020). Digital inequalities in time of pandemic: COVID-19 exposure risk profiles and new forms of vulnerability. First Monday, 25(7). DOI: https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v25i7.10845

In this article, we argue that new kinds of risk are emerging with the COVID-19 virus, and that these risks are unequally distributed. As we expose to view, digital inequalities and social inequalities are rendering certain subgroups significantly more vulnerable to exposure to COVID-19. Vulnerable populations bearing disproportionate risks include the social isolated, older adults, penal system subjects, digitally disadvantaged students, gig workers, and last-mile workers. Therefore, we map out the intersection between COVID-19 risk factors and digital inequalities on each of these populations in order to examine how the digitally resourced have additional tools to mitigate some of the risks associated with the pandemic. We shed light on how the ongoing pandemic is deepening key axes of social differentiation, which were previously occluded from view. These newly manifested forms of social differentiation can be conceived along several related dimensions. At their most general and abstract, these risks have to do with the capacity individuals have to control the risk of pathogen exposure. In order to fully manage exposure risk, individuals must control their physical environment to the greatest extent possible in order to prevent contact with potentially compromised physical spaces. In addition, they must control their social interactional environment to the greatest extent possible in order to minimize their contacts with potentially infected individuals. All else equal, those individuals who exercise more control over their exposure risk—on the basis of their control over their physical and social interactional environments—stand a better chance of staying healthy than those individuals who cannot manage exposure risk. Individuals therefore vary in terms of what we call their COVID-19 exposure risk profile (CERPs). CERPs hinge on preexisting forms of social differentiation such as socioeconomic status, as individuals with more economic resources at their disposal can better insulate themselves from exposure risk. Alongside socioeconomic status, one of the key forms of social differentiation connected with CERPs is digital (dis)advantage. Ceteris paribus, individuals who can more effectively digitize key parts of their lives enjoy better CERPs than individuals who cannot digitize these life realms. Therefore we believe that digital inequalities are directly and increasingly related to both life-or-death exposure to COVID-19, as well as excess deaths attributable to the larger conditions generated by the pandemic.

Röhm, A., Möhring, M., Grengel, M., & Hastall, M. R. (2021). How self-disclosure in online postings affects female readers’ stigmatisation towards mothers with a disability. In S. Geber, T. Frey, & T. Friemel (Eds.), Social Aspects of Health Communication [Special Issue]. European Journal of Health Communication, 2(2), 1–20. DOI: https://doi.org/10.47368/ejhc.2021.201

Self-disclosure of a health problem or a disability in online environments can be helpful to reduce stigmatisation and to empower marginalised individuals. Although stigmatisation leads to adverse health outcomes, it is still unclear which factors reduce readers’ stigmatising attitudes. This 2 × 2 × 3 × 2 online-experiment with 715 female participants examined how the depiction of self-disclosure of a mother’s disability, her coping with a stressful situation, and the child’s type of disability and sex in a fictional blog post affect female readers’ stigma-related attitudes. The role of readers’ perspective taking is also studied in this regard. A MANOVA yielded two main effects: Disclosure of the mother’s disability reduced social distance compared to the control condition (no disability). Female respondents with a high ability for perspective taking reported less stigmatising attitudes than female respondents scoring low in this regard. Both effects are also reflected in a four-way interaction with mother’s coping and child’s sex. Overall, results indicate a high potential of self-disclosures for anti-stigma communication. Implications for blogging about a disability and future health communication research are discussed.

Rozema, R., & Bass, C. (Eds.). (2023). The Internet [Feature Issue]. Ought: The Journal of Autistic Culture, 4(2). 

“The internet has become an essential tool for neurodivergent expression and connection. This journal, for example, exists solely as an online publication, which allows us to include a broad range of divergent expression without the constraint of typical print-based publications. The internet has also given autistics a space to identify themselves, share their special interests, and develop the foundations of autistic culture. As Martijn Dekker (1999) observed in his seminal paper on autistic culture, the internet enabled autistic individuals to connect with each other without the pressure of social encounters, enabling autism advocacy groups such as the Autism Network International (ANI) to form online. Importantly, these online advocacy groups were run by autistic individuals—not by neurotypical parents, psychiatrists, or other medical professions. As a result, self-advocacy became an early theme of autistic culture. Yet the internet is also a complicated space where autistic individuals are at risk, and where bullying and misinformation can lead to severe consequences for them. This issue of Ought explores the complexities of being autistic online” (p. 4).

Rugoho, T. (Ed.). (2024). Disability and media: An African perspective. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-40885-4

This book seeks to expand some of the existing, often western and Global North facing, scholarship in the area of Disability and Media Studies to include African perspectives. ​Featuring predominantly Africa-based contributors, it studies an array of topics on disability and media in Africa, including issues of social media, media ethics, including marginalised voices in the media, and disability representation in the media.

Contributions include an introduction and the following chapters: 

Russo, K. E., & Grasso, A. (2022, October). Coping with dis/ableism in Twitter discourse: A corpus-based critical appraisal analysis of the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Lanyard case. In B. Hughes & M. C. Nisco (Eds.), Special Issue on Disability, Shame and Discrimination. International Journal of Language Studies, 16(4), 65-94. 

During the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, social media intensified their role as a channel for the sharing of opinions about health-related risk prevention measures (Zappavigna, 2012, 2018). Yet, the latter arguably gave way to the promotion of a set of common values which resulted in verbal discrimination and hostility directed at specific groups of people. The article provides an analysis of the appraisal of risk communication discourse about mask exemptions in a specialised Twitter corpus, specifically compiled to represent the period March 2020-March 2021. The data are analysed according to an approach which draws upon findings in Critical Social Media Discourse Analysis and Appraisal Linguistics. Corpus Linguistics methodological tools are combined with the analysis of context and discourse structural evaluation through qualitative assessments (Baker, 2006; Zappavigna, 2017). The analysis focuses on the lexical and grammatical resources used to express attitude oriented to affect (Martin &amp; White, 2015). It discusses findings related to negative/positive appraisal and adaptive/maladaptive responses, such as activism, solidarity and hate speech in relation to COVID-19 health-related measures and combines the findings on affect with the critical discourse analysis of disablist and ableist discourse. It hopes to contribute to the development of a digital culture of respect and peace and to foster awareness of the core values of inclusion and solidarity in online and offline communication.

Sangeorzan, I., Andriopoulou, P., & Livanou, M. (2019). Exploring the experiences of people vlogging about severe mental illness on YouTube: An interpretative phenomenological analysis. Journal of Affective Disorders, 246, 422-428. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2018.12.119.

Background: Evidence suggests that, compared to the general population, individuals with severe mental illness (SMI) are more likely to engage in online social networking and share personal experiences through blogging. However, little is known about the impact of creating and publicly sharing mental health videos (vlogging) on individuals with self-identified SMIs.

Aims: The present study aims to investigate the experiences of individuals with self-identified SMIs who vlog about their SMI on YouTube.

Methods: YouTube was systematically searched using four key search items (“schizophrenia”, “bipolar disorder”, “major depressive disorder” and “schizoaffective disorder”). After manually screening approximately 50 channels, a set of 30 videos by individuals with self-identified SMIs discussing their experience of vlogging was selected and transcribed verbatim. An interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) was employed for the analysis of the data.

Results: The analysis produced three global themes: Minimising Isolation; Vlogging as Therapy; and Fighting stigma.

Limitations: The data collected was limited as regards depth of content by the inability to ask follow-up questions.

Conclusions: The findings suggest that engaging in the act of vlogging about mental illness may benefit and encourage recovery in individuals with SMIs by providing them with peer support, enhancing self-efficacy, and reducing self-stigma. Future research should employ interviews to produce more robust data for analysis.

Sannon, S., Young, J., Shusas, E., & Forte, A. (2023, April). Disability activism on social media: Sociotechnical challenges in the pursuit of visibility. In CHI ’23: Proceedings of the 2023 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Article No. 672. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1145/3544548.3581333

Activism efforts have played a central role in advancing the rights of disabled people in the United States. Social media offers new opportunities for people with disabilities to engage in activism while bypassing the accessibility issues involved in traditional activism. At the same time, disabled people face various forms of social and technical exclusion that may also complicate their use of social media for disability activism. To understand how disabled activists advocate for social change online, we interviewed 20 disabled content creators about their goals, strategies, and challenges around posting activism content on social media. We find that visibility is essential for successful online activism, but that the pursuit of visibility requires disabled content creators to navigate additional challenges including social stigma, algorithmic suppression, accessibility issues, and a heightened risk of harassment. We identify three main types of disability-related harassment faced by disabled activists, along with six ways in which they respond to such harassment. We examine the sociotechnical nature of the strategies disabled activists use to gain visibility, and identify key trade-offs involved in mitigating harassment while engaging in activism on social media.

Santoso, A. D. (2019). Social media campaigns on disability awareness:  A content analysis of official government Twitter accounts. Life Span and Disability, XXII(1) (2019), 95-112.

Increasing the public’s awareness of disabilities is arguably one of the most important steps in removing social and environmental barriers facing individuals with disabilities. Increased awareness also encourages disabled persons to be more socially, physically, and spiritually active. However, most research in this area focuses on improving knowledge about disabilities, attitudes towards disabled individuals, and the acceptance of disabled individuals by their peers in the classroom. The advent of social media promises new opportunities to educate more people. The objective of this article is to provide an initial assessment of Twitter, a social media platform used by the Indonesian government to promote disability awareness. The sample includes 45 official accounts, and the posts were coded into 15 categories and 5 media types. Moreover, metrics of engagement for each category were also computed. The results show that infographics and videos were the media types that were used most frequently. The government posted frequently about new regulations, but the content did not receive a high level of engagement. The study also found significant differences between levels of engagement with posts in each content and media category. This study aims to help practitioners and academics to facilitate effective promotion of disability awareness via social media. 

Saunders, K. C. (2016). A double-edged sword: Social media as a tool of online disinhibition regarding American Sign Language and Deaf cultural experience marginalization, and as a tool of cultural and linguistic exposure. Social Media + Society, 2(1). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/2056305115624529

Social media has become a venue for social awareness and change through forum discussions and exchange of viewpoints and information. The rate at which awareness and cultural understanding regarding specific issues has not been quantified, but examining awareness about issues relevant to American Sign Language (ASL) and American Deaf culture indicates that progress in increasing awareness and cultural understanding via social media faces greater friction and less progress compared to issues relevant to other causes and communities, such as feminism, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, or people of color. The research included in this article examines online disinhibition, cyberbullying, and audism as it appears in the real world and online, advocacy for and against Deafness as a cultural identity, and a history of how Deaf people are represented in different forms of media, including social media. The research itself is also examined in terms of who conducts the research. The few incidents of social media serving the Deaf community in a more positive manner are also examined. This is to provide contrast to determine which factors may contribute to greater progress in fostering greater awareness of Deaf cultural issues without the seemingly constant presence of resistance and lack of empathy for the Deaf community’s perspectives on ASL and Deaf culture.

Scanlan, M. (2022). Reassessing the disability divide: Unequal access as the world is pushed online. Universal Access in the Information Society, 21, 725-735. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10209-021-00803-5

In a time when a global pandemic has forced people to use technology for almost every aspect of their day-to-day lives, it is important to determine if specific disadvantaged groups are appropriately connected to the digital world. This paper attempts to assess whether people with disabilities (PWD) own computers, connect to the Internet, and participate in online activities at the same rates as the general population. Using comprehensive data from the 2017 Current Population Survey we find that PWD still lag behind in computer ownership and Internet access. This result is driven by those with physical, mental, and emotional impairments along with those with multiple disabilities. We also find that the online activities of PWD are similar to the general population for half of the activities studied, while falling behind in areas such as online communication and finances. Our results also indicate relatively high confidentiality concerns related to online activities among specific disabled groups. We do find PWD are moderately more likely than others to use the Internet for health-related activities in general. Overall, our results indicate the disability divide has been partially bridged, but that given the state of the world more can be done to ensure this already disadvantaged group is not left further behind.

Schalk, S. (2021). Black disability gone viral: A critical race approach to inspiration porn. CLA Journal, 64(1), 100-120. DOI: http://doi.org/10.1353/caj.2021.0007.

“Whenever a video, image, or story of a disabled person goes viral, it most often occurs within the context of inspiration porn, a term popularized by the late Australian disability rights activist Stella Young. Generally, inspiration porn refers to representations that “objectify disabled people for the benefit of non-disabled people.” The term, which has taken strong hold within disability and activist communities, is beginning to appear in academic scholarship, and was even featured in an episode of the ABC sitcom Speechless in 2017. Inspiration porn has strong similarities to the older concept of supercrip, a term used to describe narratives about disabled people who are represented as inspiring or extraordinary for performing both mundane and exceptional activities” (pp. 100-101).

“…Disability Studies scholars have yet to adequately explore how race may necessitate adapting our understandings of inspiration porn. More broadly, I contend that Disability Studies needs to grapple with how non-white racial contexts may necessitate shifting or discarding certain terms and concepts in the field that have been almost exclusively developed and deployed in the context of white experiences, understandings, and representations of disability. This argument matters not only for Black and Critical Race Disability Studies scholars who need to examine the utility of concepts and theories in white Disability Studies for our work, but also for Disability Studies scholars working on white experiences, understandings, and representations of disability. These scholars, I argue, need to be more explicit in naming the objects of their analysis as exclusively white, acknowledging the potential that their concepts will not translate to other racial contexts” (p. 102).

Shrestha, A.  (2018, Spring). Echo: The romanticization of mental illness on Tumblr. The Undergraduate Research Journal of Psychology at UCLA, 5, 69-80.

For decades, mental illnesses had been portrayed in mainstream media as fearful, violent, and isolating conditions embodied by serial killers and murderers. Today, with the advent of social media, this perception is changing, but perhaps not for the better. The romanticization of mental illness is the depiction of mental illness as attractive or appealing to the viewer. Romanticization can come in many forms, such as in the glorification of suicide that shines through in Netflix’s popular series 13 Reasons Why, or, quieter and perhaps more sinister, in the form of images shared on a social media platform called Tumblr. On Tumblr, users can post, like, and share multimedia content with their followers. Unfortunately, much of this multimedia content romanticizes mental illness, and social media’s distinctive ability to create micro-communities of like-minded followers allows for the formation of echo chambers, where users can share such content, have similar content reflected back at them, and thus have their worldviews go unchallenged. These echo chambers, while seemingly confined to the Internet, can have broader consequences on neurotypicals, the mental illness community, and society as a whole.

Smith-Frigerio, S. (2023). #ImMentallyIllAndIDontKill: A case study of grassroots health advocacy messages on Twitter following the Dayton and El Paso shootings. In M. S. Jeffress, J. M. Cypher, J. Ferris, & J. A. Scott-Pollock (Eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Disability and Communication. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-14447-9_27.

Following the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio in 2019, President Trump described in an official statement his intent to monitor and involuntarily hospitalize individuals with mental health concerns lest they commit more mass shootings. Subsequently, individuals diagnosed with mental health concerns led a grassroots disability advocacy campaign on Twitter. This chapter reports on five of the trending hashtags related to the campaign during a two-week period. It details the advocacy strategies found in the tweets, including raising awareness, educating, organizing and policy change support, and fostering an inclusive environment. Practical implications for health communication professionals, disability advocates, and mental health advocates are discussed, as well as the theoretical implications for health communication advocacy, health activism, and opportunities for future research.

Snider, S. (2021). #NoBodyIsDisposable: Visual politics and performance in collective activist movements. In L. D. Levan & S. Snider (Eds.), Representing Fatness Through Critical and Artistic Practice [Special Issue]. Fat Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Body Weight and Society, 12(3), 442-455. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/21604851.2021.1975439.  

The #NoBodyIsDisposible hashtag has become a sign of coalitional politics built through fat and disability activism since 2019. #NoBodyIsDisposible and other hashtags have been used for both street-based and virtual activism to underline the ways in which multiple forms of oppression affect the everyday lives of Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, Pacific Islander, and additional People of Color, immigrants, disabled, chronically ill, and neurodivergent people, and fat people in the United States. This article suggests that the visual and performance-based work of activists using the #NobodyIsDisposible hashtag makes inroads in challenging oppressive tendencies of dominant culture and emphasizes the significance of visual modes of coalitional political activism.

Sochacka, A. J. (2022). Rewriting normal: A discourse analysis of TEDx speeches on neurodiversity and autism. In V. Langum & T. Walker (Eds.), The Medical Humanities, Literature and Language [Special Issue]. Nordic Journal of English Studies, 21(2), 166-194. DOI: https://doi.org/10.35360/njes.780

Nearly 1 in 50 in the United States will be diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) (Dietz et al. 2020), while in Sweden, the statistics oscillate around 1.5% (Linnsand et al. 2021). Yet, not many are familiar with the concept of neurodiversity, an emerging social identity. The idea that mental disabilities may play a significant role in the development of the human race is not new but it does not gain enough attention from the general public. Because mental disabilities concern the brain, we feel a moral imperative to protect the well-being of the affected ones while simultaneously not giving credit to their own self-agency. However, this article presents the viewpoint on neurodiversity of three autistic women and by using Positive Discourse Analysis (PDA) examines the discursive strategies and main themes in three TEDx talks concerning autism. The results show that by nomination the autistic women advocated a redefinition of autism as an identity which gave them a sense of alternative normalcy. A two-fold depiction of autistic traits (features) as unique but also limiting shows the dichotomy in presenting struggles and challenges: on the one hand by mitigating their severity, and on the other by intensifying the hardships. Finally, by perspectivation they present their approach to the division into low and high-functioning autistic people and argue that this distinction is based on the neurotypical perception of ASD but has little to do with the severity of the syndrome one experiences. Finally, they argue that exposing non-stereotypical (female) traits can result in a delayed diagnosis.

Shpigelman, C. (2018, January). Leveraging Social Capital of Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities through Participation on Facebook. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 31(1), e79-e91. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/jar.12321

Background: Participation in social networking sites has considerable potential to leverage the individual’s social capital, including persons with intellectual disabilities, whose real-world social networks are fairly limited.

Method: This study aimed to understand how individuals with intellectual disabilities use Facebook to access social capital benefits, if at all. Qualitative interviews and observations were conducted with 20 adult Facebook users with intellectual disabilities.

Results: The online participation enhanced their bonding social capital as well as contributed to their psychological well-being through increasing their online visibility, popularity and sense of belonging. At the same time, they experienced stress and frustration due to usage difficulties, which prevented them from enhancing their bridging social capital.

Conclusions: Participation in social networking sites may also leverage bridging social capital of persons with intellectual disabilities, but they need a more accessible platform and ongoing support to ensure safe and fruitful participation.

Shpigelman, C., & Gill, C. J. (2014). How do adults with intellectual disabilities use Facebook? Disability & Society, 29(1), 1601-1616. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09687599.2014.966186.   

Social networking sites have potential to support social relationships and self-determination of people with intellectual disabilities. However, to date, this issue has received little research attention. To help address this need, we conducted an online research survey to reach adults with intellectual disabilities who use Facebook and to include their voices about their online experiences, challenges, and preferences. We used mixed methods for data collection and analysis. Results from 58 respondents indicated that they use Facebook much as non-disabled users do to connect with family members and real-world friends. At the same time, the respondents reported challenges such as privacy setting and literacy demands. We discuss these findings and how to make social networking sites more accessible for users with intellectual disabilities.

Shpigelman, C., &  Gill, C. J. (2014). How to make online social networks accessible for users with intellectual disability? In K. Miesenberger, D. Fels, D. Archambault, P. Peňáz, & W. Zagler (Eds,) Computers Helping People with Special Needs ICCHP 2014 [Lecture Notes in Computer Science Vol. 8547], (pp. 471–477). Cham: Springer. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-08596-8_74

Participation in online social networks has considerable potential to empower people with intellectual disability who might experience social isolation in the real world. However, this issue has received little research attention. In response to this challenge, we conducted an accessible online research survey to learn how adults with intellectual disability use and perceive Facebook. Results from 58 respondents indicated that they use Facebook much as non-disabled users do to connect with family members and real-world friends. At the same time, the respondents reported challenges such as privacy setting and literacy demands. We discuss these findings and how to make social networking sites accessible for this population.

Stamou, A. G., Alevriadou, A., & Soufla, F. (2016). Representations of disability from the perspective of people with disabilities and their families: A critical discourse analysis of disability groups on Facebook. Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research, 18(1), 1-16. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/15017419.2014.962611.

Contrary to the growing body of research into views about and attitudes towards disability which has focused on the perspectives of non-disabled people, recent disability studies have been directed to the voices of people with disabilities and/or their families, by acknowledging an ‘epistemic privilege’ to them. In the present study, we use the posts of sensory and physical disability groups on Facebook as a lens to uncover the voices and experiences of people with disabilities and/or their families. The critical discourse analysis of the posts of disability groups on Facebook suggests that people with disabilities and/or their families do not constitute a homogeneous group of people being connected because of their common (bodily) condition. On the other hand, different representations of disability also suggest a different use of Facebook.

Sweet, K. S.,  LeBlanc, J. K., Stough, L. M., & Sweany, N.W. (2020, February). Community building and knowledge sharing by individuals with disabilities using social media. JCAL (Journal of Computer Assisted Learning), 36(1), 1-11. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/jcal.12377.

The use of social media to share information, enhance learning, and connect with an online community has grown rapidly over the past 10 years. As social media becomes a more common tool in both formal and informal education, it is imperative to understand how it is used by individuals with disabilities. Through a systematic study of the literature, 215 articles on social media used by individuals with disabilities were selected and 29 selected for in-depth thematic analysis. Six major themes were identified: community, cyberbullying, self-esteem, self-determination, access to technology, and accessibility. To confirm these six categories, we expanded our search, yielding an additional 30 articles, for a total 59 articles reviewed in-depth. Interactions between individuals with disabilities within online communities often had the goal of acquiring knowledge or learning new information. A communities of practice theoretical framework is used to discuss interactions among the elements of social media design, learning, and the building of community by individuals with disabilities.

Tahleen A., Lattimer, T. A., Tenzek, K. E., & Ophir, Y. (2023). Shouts from the void: A mixed-method analysis surrounding the online chronic illness community, NEISVoid. Health Communication. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/10410236.2023.2250939

Chronic illness affects millions worldwide, rendering the life of those affected complex to manage. Extant research points to the need for effective and supportive care for the successful treatment, yet health care encounters for this population are often filled with negative experiences, ranging from discontinuity of care to disenfranchisement from providers. One such group dedicated to sharing struggles is the NEISVoid (No End In Sight) community on Twitter. Through the use of the hashtag, #NEISVoid, they come together to share what experiences living with chronic illness look like, in vulnerable and potentially unfiltered ways. The present study analyzes the discourse surrounding the hashtag #NEISVoid in tweets published from January 1 2020, until September 1 2022 (N = 450,914 tweets) using the mixed-method analysis of topic model network (ANTMN) approach. We identify and discuss four broad discursive themes: community experiences, symptom management, efficacy solutions, and biomedical health. We analyze this discourse through the chronic care model (CCM) and in light of research on hashtag activism. We discuss practical and theoretical implications for health communicators.

Tamplain, P. M., Fears, N. E., Robinson, P., Chatterjee, R., Lichtenberg, G., & Miller, H. L. (2023). #DCD/Dyspraxia in real life: Twitter users’ unprompted expression of experiences with motor differences. Journal of Motor Learning and Development Ahead of Print. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1123/jmld.2023-0008

Little is known about adults’ experiences with developmental coordination disorder (DCD; sometimes also referred to as dyspraxia). Social media is an accessible opportunity for those who identify as dyspraxic or as having DCD to provide valuable insight into the lifespan impact of this condition on functional ability, participation, compensatory strategies, and well-being. We used the Twitter research application programming interface to identify users who self-identified with the keywords Developmental Coordination Disorder, #DCD, #dyspraxic (or # dyspraxia), or clumsy in their profile descriptions between October 10 and November 10, 2021. During that period, 818 tweets were harvested with 524 remaining after removing duplicates (e.g., multiple promotions of a single resource) and unrelated tweets. They were labeled according to motor differences (general motor, coordination, fine motor skills, oral motor skills, manual dexterity, driving, gross motor skills, movement pain and fatigue, posture and balance, and lower extremity); functional impact (advocacy/awareness, support for others, resources, information, and education, intervention, accommodation, and work); or other related topics (stimming and sensory, co-occurrence and diagnostic overlap, cognitive, social and communication speech, and emotional and mental health). The DCD/dyspraxic community has clearly identified a lifelong impact of motor differences across multiple contexts. DCD/dyspraxic Twitter users shared compensatory strategies that could help others, and offered insight into their experience of co-occurring conditions and cognitive/emotional sequelae of motor challenges.

Tahat, K.M., Al-Sarayrah, W., Salloum, S.A., Habes, M., Ali, S. (2022). The influence of YouTube Videos on the Learning Experience of Disabled People During the COVID-19 Outbreak. In A. E. Hassanien, S. M. Elghamrawy, & I. Zelinka (Eds.), Advances in Data Science and Intelligent Data Communication Technologies for COVID-19 [Studies in Systems, Decision and Control Vol. 378]. Cham: Springer. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-77302-1_13

A record number of individuals are not attending educational institutions during the Covid-19 outbreak. This situation is highly thought-provoking, yet; the use of new media technology can overcome this challenge. In this regard, this chapter investigated the influence of YouTube usage as an educational tool on the learning process of disabled people during the COVID-19 pandemic. The researchers selected n = 60 individuals working as disability specialists and used structural equation modeling to examine the proposed study model. The results revealed that there is a positive relationship between YouTube videos and e-Learning among disable individuals. Moreover, the quality, ease of use, and texts in the video also contribute to improving the disabled people’s learning experiences. Thus, the results highly supported technology acceptance and usage during the global healthcare crisis. Moreover, the researchers also recommended evaluating other aspects of YouTube Videos that can influence people with disabilities about their social media usage, especially during an emergency like Covid-19.

Thelwall, M., & Levitt, J.M. (2020). Retweeting Covid-19 disability issues: Risks, support and outrage. Information Professional/Information Professional, 29(2). DOI: https://doi.org/10.3145/epi.2020.mar.16

The Covid-19 pandemic has greatly uneven impacts on sectors of society. People with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to it and so it is important to understand both the disability perspective and the role of social media. This information may help to reduce the risk from the disease. In response, this article uses thematic analysis to investigate 59 disability-related tweets from March 10 to April 4, 2020 that were retweeted at least 500 times, with a quarter of a million retweets altogether. This approach generates quick insights into widely resonating disability-related issues. The results suggest the value of Twitter for disseminating information about the risk, offers or requests for support, the ability of many people with disabilities to adjust to the changes well, and information about individuals with the disease. In addition, there was outrage at suggestions that the disease was less serious because young people without disabilities were relatively low risk, and that people with disabilities might be denied equal access to medical treatment. As one tweet pointed out, people in less vulnerable categories should not be told on Twitter or elsewhere that the disease is less relevant to them because their actions can impact others through social spreading.

Thomas, B. (2017). Whose story is it anyway? Following everyday accounts of living with dementia on social media. Style, 51(3), 357-373. DOI: http://doi.org/10.1353/sty.2017.0030.

This article will focus on an analysis of everyday accounts of living with dementia found on Twitter. The discussion aims to address specific issues of control raised by these narratives, both in terms of the ownership and distribution of the stories, and in terms of the sense of self these accounts may provide. The article will reflect on the specific methodological issues raised in analysing the small stories found on social media, especially in so far as they challenge traditional narrative categories. It also engages in depth with the ethical issues raised by researching dementia narratives, particularly as regards consent and any attempt to (re)construct some kind of unitary meaning from the fragments and traces of the self these narratives may provide. The discussion aims to go beyond the language and style of the individual narratives to explore the contexts in which the narratives are taken up and circulated. It also aims to consider how far these stories of the self offer an alternative to dominant versions of the illness narrative that focus on transformation and growth, to provide powerful insights into the everyday realities of living with dementia.

Tollan, K. (2022, Winter). Exploring the development of disability identity by young creators on Instagram. In B. Haller & L. Carter-Long (Eds.), Disability and Film and Media [Special Issue]. Review of Disability Studies, 17(4). 

This paper explores how disabled youth use social media to express their identity. Using Swain & French’s (2000) affirmation model and methodological principles of photovoice, the study took Instagram photos from eight participants for analysis, with the results discussing trends in the disability experience in connection to personal expression.

Tsatsou, P. (2019). Digital inclusion of people with disabilities: a qualitative study of intra-disability diversity in the digital realm. Behaviour & Information Technology, 39(9), 995-1010. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/0144929X.2019.1636136

This paper presents an in-depth study of intra-disability diversity in the digital realm and the related role of individuality and selectiveness in the digital choices and experiences of people with disabilities (PwD). The study adopts the interactionist model of disability and problematises conceptual uniformity in research that focuses on the medical and socially-constructed features of disability as those determining digital constraints and affordances for PwD. Through primary qualitative evidence, it argues that individuality and selectiveness shape a complex terrain of intra-disability diversity, which forms the nuances and experiences of digital inclusion for PwD. Thus, it invites researchers to move beyond disability-fixed categorisations and offers a 3-tier recommendation for future research to explain the range of PwD’ perceptions and experiences in the digital realm.

Trevisan, F. (2016). Disability rights advocacy online: Voice, empowerment and global connectivity. New York: Routledge. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315726489

Disability rights advocates in the United Kingdom and the United States recently embraced new media technologies in unexpected and innovative ways. This book sheds light on this process of renewal and asks whether the digitalisation of disability rights advocacy can help re-configure political participation into a more inclusive experience for disabled Internet users, enhancing their stakes in democratic citizenship. Through the examination of social media content, Web link analysis, and interviews with leading figures in grassroots groups on both sides of the Atlantic, Filippo Trevisan reveals the profound impact that the Internet has had on disability advocacy in the wake of the austerity agenda that followed the 2008 global financial crisis. In Britain, a new, tech-savvy generation of young disabled self-advocates has emerged from this process. The role of social media platforms such as Facebook in helping politically inexperienced users make sense of complex policy changes through the use of personal stories is discussed also. In addition, this book explains why British disability advocates adopted more innovative and participatory strategies compared to their American counterparts when faced with similar policy crises. This book reviews the implications of this unexpected digital transformation for the structure of the disability rights movement, its leadership, and the opportunity for disabled citizens to participate fully in democratic politics vis-à-vis persisting Web access and accessibility barriers. An original perspective on the relationship between disability and the Internet, and an indispensable read for scholars wishing to contextualize and enrich their knowledge on digital disability rights campaigns vis-à-vis the broader ecology of policymaking.

Trevisan, F. (2017). Crowd-sourced advocacy: Promoting disability rights through online storytelling. Public Relations Inquiry, 6(2), 191-208. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/2046147X17697785

This article sheds light on the emergent advocacy technique of building policy counter-narratives by crowd-sourcing, organizing, and disseminating personal life stories online. Focusing on the case of disability rights groups in the United Kingdom, this article uses qualitative in-depth content analysis to examine 107 blog posts containing personal disability stories published in 2012–2013 by two anti-austerity groups. Although each of these groups managed its blogs differently, with one carefully curating stories and the other publishing crowd-sourced narratives without any form of editing, they generated virtually identical counter-narratives. These accounts challenged the dominant news narrative that presented disability welfare claimants as ‘cheats’ and ‘scroungers’. They did so by retaining the overarching structure of the dominant narrative – which functioned as the de facto coordinating mechanism for the crowd-sourced counter-narrative – and replacing its content with three alternative arguments drawn from personal life stories. The implications of this new advocacy technique for disabled people and other marginalized groups are discussed. This includes considerations about the development of a form of story-based advocacy that is both effective and respectful of the people who ‘lend’ their lived experiences for advocacy purposes. This article concludes by highlighting the need for research to investigate whether the new voices that emerge through these processes are ‘being heard’ and can successfully re-frame public discourse about sensitive policy issues.

Trevisan, F. (2020). “Do you want to be a well-informed citizen, or do you want to be sane?” Social media, disability, mental health, and political marginality. Social Media + Society, 6(1). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/2056305120913909

This article examines the experiences of people with disabilities, a traditionally marginalized group in US politics, with social media platforms during the 2016 presidential election. Using focus groups with participants with a wide range of disabilities, the significance of YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook is discussed. Results highlight ambivalent experiences with these platforms, which support some elements of political inclusion (more accessible and more relevant election information) but at the same time also exacerbate aspects of marginality (stress, anxiety, isolation). Four coping strategies devised by participants to address digital stress (self-censorship, unfollowing/unfriending social media contacts, signing off, and taking medication) are illustrated. The relationship between these contrasting findings, social media design and affordances, as well as potential strategies to eliminate an emerging trade-off between discussing politics online and preserving mental health and social connectedness for people with disabilities are discussed.

Virdi-Dhesi, J. (2014, October). Dialogues on disability: Social media as platforms for scholarship. Medical History, 58(4), 628-631. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/mdh.2014.64.

The author offers their own “…narrative to [contribute to an] ongoing discussion [emerging about using media for/as academic scholarship], on [their] experience as a graduate student using social media and on how it has shaped certain aspects of [their] dissertation research…on the history of nineteenth-century British aural surgery [and deafness]” (p. 628) and as a hard of hearing scholar.

Wang, Y., & Ringland, K. E. (2023, October). Weaving Autistic voices on TikTok: Utilizing Co-Hashtag Networks for Netnography. In CSCW ’23 Companion: Companion Publication of the 2023 Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (pp. Pages 254-258). New York: Association for Computing Machinery. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1145/3584931.3606995

While many autistic creators are active on TikTok, sharing content about autism and their daily lives, there is little research to capture the richness of these discourses. In this study, we propose to augment netnography with co-hashtag networks to gain a broader perspective of the online discourse among autistic people while depicting detailed contexts. We analyzed the use of hashtags in 3752 publicly available TikTok videos from 41 autistic creators and conducted an in-depth analysis of 55 of the scraped videos to explore the content and expression of autistic creators on TikTok. The results demonstrate the individuality and advocacy of autistic creators, highlighting their intersectional identities and engagement in various communities beyond the autism community. We emphasize technologies embracing diversity to prevent marginalization and empower children with autism diagnosis.

Wardell, S., Starling, S., & Withey-Rila, C. (2023). Fat and deserving: Navigating the visibility and visuality of non-normative bodies in online medical crowdfunding. Fat Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Body Weight and Society. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/21604851.2023.2283955

Medical crowdfunding is an individualizing and privatizing response to healthcare inequalities, in which citizens use online platforms to share (written and visual) stories about health-related needs in order to elicit donations. We present data from a study of medical crowdfunding in Aotearoa New Zealand, drawing on critical theory and fat studies to analyze weight-loss-related campaigns, with a focus on visibility and visuality. We highlight the complexities involved in making fat (and otherwise non-normative) bodies acceptable, marketable, and deserving to online audiences. Through a reflexive thematic analysis of text and images, across nineteen public Givealittle campaigns related to intentional weight loss, we identified five main themes relating to how the fat body was presented. These themes include: unwell bodies, transitional bodies, active bodies, objectified bodies, and wretched bodies. We show that the ability of particular bodies to generate specific moral emotions (that can, through these platforms, be turned into care/healthcare access) depends largely on their relationship to normative ideas of the “good” body. Our analysis offers insight into how people negotiate hierarchies of deservingness, based on entrenched normativities, while living in non-normative bodies. More specifically, we show how people pursuing intentional weight loss use images to regulate themselves according to a wider anti-fat and neoliberal logic of deservingness. We explore images on crowdfunding campaigns as a form of both media labor and moral labor, highlighting the double-bind of the digital gaze upon bodies that are unable to access privileged states of health without being made visible to scrutiny.

White, P., & Forrester-Jones, R. (2020). Valuing e-inclusion: Social media and the social networks of adolescents with intellectual disability. Journal of Intellectual Disabilities, 24(3), 381-397. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1744629518821240.

Background: Social media is a growing phenomenon, yet people with intellectual disability (ID) may not experience comparable access to this communication technology. Adolescents with ID may benefit from e-inclusion, especially as individuals with ID are at risk of having smaller social networks.

Materials and Methods: The Social Network Guide was adapted to measure social media usage and used to examine the interpersonal relationships of adolescents with and without ID.

Results: Adolescents with ID held smaller social networks with less developed informal relationships. However, friendship quality was comparable or superior to typically developing peers. Adolescents with ID interacted with a smaller percentage of contacts using social media. Social media use was predictive of the number of reported friendships and did not significantly predict critical comments.

Conclusions: Findings suggest that adolescents with ID have comparable access to social media but use these sites to interact with a smaller number of social contacts.

Wong, A. (2015, April 7). UX of people with disabilities: Advancing accessibility in social media. Model View Culture Issue 19.

The power and promise of social media is still out of reach for some people with disabilities who do not have the same ease-of-use and benefits as non-disabled users.

Yadlin-Segal, A. (2019, January). What’s in a smile? Politicizing disability through selfies and affect. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 24(1), 36-50. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/jcmc/zmy023

This article focuses on selfies and empowerment of individuals with physical disabilities. By exploring the #FSHDselfies campaign as a case study, I discuss the role affect plays in mediated advocacy for the representation of non-normative bodies, allowing disabled individuals to gather as a community and disrupt contemporary beauty standards. I draw on the case study to re-articulate the term “community of affect” (Climo, 2001) as the socio-political structure that promotes marginalized groups’ negotiation of collective identity and communal action geared towards cultural, social, and political change. This community can be seen as a sub-section or a specific discursive space categorized under “affective publics” (Papacharissi, 2014). I show in this context how participatory forms of representation open a space for negotiation and criticism of marginalized groups on the one hand, while oversimplifying the complex and diverse lives of minority groups on the other hand.

Zehrung, R., & Chen, Y. (2023). Self-expression and sharing around chronic illness on TikTok. arXiv:2311.11481 [cs.HC]. DOI: https://doi.org/10.48550/arXiv.2311.11481

While prior work has investigated the benefits of online health communities and general purpose social media used for health-related purposes, little work examines the use of TikTok, an emerging social media platform with a substantial user base. The platform’s multimodal capabilities foster creative self-expression, while the content-driven network allows users to reach new audiences beyond their personal connections. To investigate users’ challenges and motivations, we analyzed 160 TikTok videos that center on users’ first hand experiences living with chronic illness. We found that users struggled with a loss of normalcy and stigmatization in daily life. To contend with these challenges, they publicly shared their experiences to raise awareness, seek support from peers, and normalize chronic illness experiences. Based on our findings, we discuss the modalities of TikTok that facilitate self-expression around stigmatized topics and provide implications for the design of online health communities that better support adolescents and young adults.

Zhao, X., Feigenbaum, A., & McDavitt, S. (2021, June). Feasibility of comics in health communication: Public responses to graphic medicine on Instagram during the COVID-19 pandemic. In B. Johansson (Ed.), COVID-19 Health Campaigns [Special Issue]. Journal of Visual Political Communication, 9, 9-28. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1386/jvpc_00015_1

The COVID-19 pandemic has called for effective health communication strategies to better protect the public’s well-being, particularly over social media. Among various strategies, health-related comics, referred to as ‘graphic medicine’, were circulated on social media to communicate public health information and to share individuals’ struggles with mental health. Despite a growing body of research in the field of graphic medicine, studies on public responses to graphic medicine are rare, leaving a gap in understanding the feasibility of these comics for effective health communication over social media. To address this gap, this study focused on Instagram audience responses to graphic medicine posts related to the COVID-19 pandemic that were circulated on the platform. It used qualitative content analysis to study 334 comments on eleven comics related to mental health and 159 comments on ten comics related to vaccination. Findings evidence the feasibility of graphic medicine as a tool for health communication relating to showing empathy, contributing personal experiences and knowledge and understanding and elaborating on health-related knowledge, what we refer to as ‘health literacy’. Empirical implications of health communication through graphic medicine are discussed alongside the similarities and differences found in the comments relating to these two distinct COVID-19 issues.

Zuzunaga Zegarra, D., & Abrams, T. (2023). Sick kids versus whom? Childhood disability and charitable campaigns on Instagram. Convergence Online First. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/13548565231211310.

Platform media are changing the disability charity landscape. This paper employs a hybrid critical disability studies – platform media studies lens to explore the SickKids VS campaign, aiming to ‘fight’ childhood illness and disability. Employing a social media thematic analysis, we analyzed social media content distributed through the campaign, consisting of images, videos, and captions (n=620). We found three dominant narratives: heroic sick kids, crumbling infrastructure, and informational content. Each trend, we argue, emerges within a changing platform mediascape, whereby charitable audiences must be cultivated and curated over a long-term process, rather than in a single moment, as in telethon fundraising. We ask how disability is framed in each of those narratives, and how disability studies might respond to these formulations in the political economy of platform media. We end by exploring the strategies disability studies can take to combat the marginalizing effects of such charitable campaigns.

Zumbrock, S. A., Sung, J., & Mull, I. R. (2023). DEI representation on Instagram: An analysis of two fast fashion retailers. Fashion, Style & Popular Culture Online First. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1386/fspc_00210_1

As fashion retailers have started to emphasize their responsibility in society, the significance of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the fashion industry has increased. This study explores the DEI commitments made by two fast fashion retailers (i.e. H&M and Zara) to examine whether they uphold and portray their DEI commitments through their Instagram postings by focusing on the following four DEI subcategories: people of colour, size inclusivity, LGBTQIA+ and physical disabilities. The study first analysed each retailer’s DEI statement to determine what claims each retailer makes regarding DEI. The data collection process comprised an examination of Instagram posts during the first week of every month from February 2021 to January 2022 utilizing the National Retail Federation (NRF) 4-5-4 calendar. Researchers collected qualitative/quantitative data and used content/comparative analysis to analyse the data. The findings indicated that representation might not be as equitable as their claims state. Based on the findings of this research, the study provides practical implications for enhancing DEI representation in retailers’ Instagram posts and marketing to facilitate more effective communication. Further, this study contributes to the existing literature on DEI commitments in the fashion industry by highlighting the practices of fast fashion retailers in their Instagram posts and marketing.