How can social media impact the voices of the disabled community? A group of disability advocates take to Twitter to make their mark.
“When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.”
These words from Nobel Peace Prize recipient Malala Yousafzai have passion and longevity behind them. They could have been spoken by someone else–perhaps someone who’s lost their way in life or trying to make sense of something—and still have a similar impact. The reality is, however, Yousafzai didn’t save these words for someone else.
They will go down in history as hers, and everyone who heard her say them knows that she owned them. That in itself is a lesson we need to make sure gets passed on to generation after generation—not only for its value in the world, but also for its impact on one’s self-confidence. On the flipside of that, Yousafzai’s words might have no affect at all, if spoken by the wrong person or someone who doesn’t truly believe in them.
Those who say what they mean and mean what they say are usually the ones who are heard the most—and have the world in the palm of their hand for a reason. So, imagine for a moment if Yousafzai’s word and thoughts—or anyone else’s, for that matter—were reserved for another person to say and think.
What would happen to the gifts of uniqueness and diversity if mankind continually silenced the voices of those who want and need to be heard, or didn’t pay enough attention to those voices? One can argue that this already occurs in society—and it’s true to an alarming degree. As this happens, however, we must remember an increasing number of individuals may be getting pushed further down into the hole of silence and darkness man has inadvertently dug.
According to an article published by Upworthy.com last month, members of the largest minority in the world—the disabled community—are taking to social media to make their voices heard. For a select group of disability advocates, however, it’s about more than just letting the world know this community exists.
It’s about using social media for the betterment of humankind and creating what Upworthy.com contributor Liz Jackson calls “Disability Twitter”. Jackson staid that social media platforms, particularly Twitter, has done monumental things for the improvement of the human race over the years, but noted that the disabled community has largely been left out of this change.
She goes on to introduce readers to nine influential people in the disability arena, including Gregg Beratan, Alice Wong, Dominick Evans and David Perry. All nine individuals listed are the backbone of a disability-related foundation, organization or cause with an impact on social media—such as The Disability Visibility Project, The National Council on Disability (NCD) and even the hashtag, #CriptheVote, started by Gregg, Alice and Andrew Pulrang to encourage people to include disability in conversations regarding the 2016 presidential election.
Jackson features a tweet from each of the nine individuals in her Feb. 10 article. It may seem silly, perhaps even redundant, to weave Twitter into an article about social media. It’s almost a given that one would talk about its innovation and impact, but again, this isn’t just covering the revolutionary aspects of Twitter or social media in general. This is an article that hopefully gives disabled individuals the courage to find their own voice.
Not only that, but social media and technology might be the only way a disabled person gets to use their voice. As someone who experienced that unique struggle as a kid and has since moved passed it, I appreciate the power of social media even more now as an adult. I don’t consider that power to be a free pass to post whatever I want and potentially make a fool of myself. I’m very careful about that—not only because I’m in the public eye as a writer, but also because there’s a certain level of privacy I want to maintain.
By the same token, Liz’s perspective gives readers an opportunity to see the impact others are making with their voices—and maybe that will motivate those who read the piece to say, “Hey, if these people aren’t afraid to speak out about disability in a positive way, I shouldn’t be either.”
I think she made a very intelligent, savvy decision by including tweets from individuals who are working to make the world of disabilities less intimidating—because it speaks to another point she made towards the beginning of her article:
“When you think about it, it’s easy to understand why [people] with disabilities are frequently forgotten and ignored: Society teaches us certain rules about how to interact with the disabled. Primarily, we’re taught from a young age that we’re not supposed to stare—and a reflex response to being told, ‘Don’t stare’, is to look away.”
People are the components that make up society. Voices are the pieces of clay that shape it. We can’t have one without the other—and when we do, we need to be courageous enough to recognize it. We may not always be the ones who can fix the problem, but when we begin to disregard or down out even the tiniest voice, we’re no longer part of the solution.
We become the heart and soul of the problem. Each of us is given a voice for a reason—and with it comes responsibility and an inherent sense of awareness. If we can’t balance that, what kind of world are we helping to shape?
Photo Credit: Jason A. Howie/Flickr