ABU(Junior Group) Excellent Work
Let's Live Together Using An Online Community
India Satveer Singh (23/Male)

In the 21st century, information and communications technology has made our media and community-related concepts far more extensive and specific. Ever innovative information technology, education, globalization and increasing curiosity have modified and expanded our needs. In the modern changing environment, then, it becomes necessary to analyze society in a different perspective. So, here, it is necessary to analyze the effects of social media, itsneeds as also its relationships with communities—especially with the visually impaired community—in terms of accessibility, based on technology, ideology and inclusion, so that we could throw light on the positive and negative aspects of the topic.

First of all, let us understand the nature of social media, its practice and its impact on society. Social media is different from other forms of media like newspapers, radio, TV etc., yet in actual fact, it is the common manifestation of all media forms. Social media refers to theapplication of web technology on the internet through the computer, mobile, tablet etc. and the resultant services and virtual groups which are continually creating and sharing information among them. Here, exchange of ideas takes place through text, photos, audio and video formats. Facebook, Twitter, Orkut, Linkedin, WhatsUp, Tango andSkype areits main examples. Because of its extremely personal nature, email is considered outside the domain of social media, yet email has the potential of communicating information through social media, albeit rather differently.

Inexpensive technology, expansion of education, urbanization and changing trends have made social media a necessity of life. Millions of people throughout the world are linked to it and thousands of virtual communities are being formed. The high speed of information communication and the large size of the concerned targeted community greatly enhance the impact of social media. Social media has brought forth new dimensions of acquisition of information and knowledge, which has benefitted mankind. Yet, while correct information is useful, incomplete and wrong information can prove harmful also. A few months back, in the Indian city of Bangaluru, the tension resulting from the negative, fatal and objectionable views spread through the social media against the residents of north-eastIndia expose the limitations of social media. Different communities form groups according to their needs in social media and indulge in circulation and canvassing for creating opinions to fulfill their objectives. Apart from these social networking websites, different mailing lists/groups (Google, Yahoo etc.) are also included in the domain of social media.

Social media exerts varying impact on different communities existing in societies. Before deliberating upon the mutual relations between social media and the visually impaired in society and their different aspects, it will be useful to understand the community, especially the visually impaired community.

Basically, communities are formed on the basis of common objectives, aims, needs, interests, views etc. of their members, as opposed to other communities. It is these basic elementswhich determine the regional, national or international character of the community.Apart from language, culture, regional attachment, life style, religion and caste, communities are also formed on such other grounds as being developed/under developed etc.

Disability has been among the essential and basic elements of community formation. The visually impaired community is linked to persons having sight-related problems. Being connected to disability, this community is global in nature. However, because oftheirspecific needs, problems, particular objectives like other communities, the visually impaired community carries its separate and special identity in different countries and in different spheres.It is still rather controversial whether persons connected with the visually impaired like their parents, experts, sympathizers and other types of activists, should be includedin thiscommunity or not. In fact, it also assumes relevance here whether weshould analyze anactually existing visually impaired community or whether it should be interpreted in terms of the internet-based community through social media. Actually, we should include both types in our analysis and should develop different categories in the context of technology, impact etc. It is essential to understand the considered or sudden, direct or indirect and positive or negative effects of social media from the perspective of the visually impaired community.

Firstly, the opinion generally created by the social media about the visually impaired community needs to be looked at. By disseminating information about the problemsof the visually impaired, the social media has collected public opinion in their favour. This has helped in reducingprejudices about the community and strengthened initiatives for their inclusion in the mainstream of society.However, what levelsthese initiativeshavereached through social media or how far these initiatives have been successful—this is a matter for a separate review.

It is important to consider as to how the visually impaired community themselves are linked to social media and what are their problems and roles there. The problems faced by the visually impaired community in linking with and participating fully in the social media can be divided into two categories. The first category would consist of technical problems and the second sight-related issues.

Technical problems are basically linked with the web technology. These are mainly connected with accessibility issues. In this context, mention must be made of the limitations of the present screen readers and magnifier software as also the incompatibility between the applications being developed for the computers and mobiles. At the same time, the visually impaired also facetechnological limitations with regard to touch screen devices.Instant update also creates problems, here.

By virtue of its very nature, social media is closer to sight-related concepts. These create sight-related problems for the visually impaired. A visually impaired person finds himself unable to comment on photographs and the same obstacle occurs in the case of videos. Photos are used for identification of persons, which is a problem for the visually impaired. Posting one’s own photo also gives rise to problems and increases dependence. Privacy becomes a major issue in the case of young women.

Social media networks present greater opportunities for inclusion. Persons with narrow mentality do not like to talk to individuals with this visible disability, nor do the visually impaired, due to their inability to see, take the initiative in speaking to and interacting with others. However, disability remains hidden in social media and both parties can get connected witheach otherfar more easily.

It is a matter of regret that due to the use of visual concepts in social media, visually impaired persons are forming their own special communities/groups in isolation, which is against the concept of inclusion.Groups like Access India are examples.

People’s diligence and theircapacity to find solutions have driventhe obstacles to the margins and ensured a place for the visually impaired community in social media. The prejudices earlier prevailing in society about the visually impaired community, have beenremoved by the social media.The visually impaired community looks forward to a golden futureof inclusion through social media.


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