ABU(Junior Group) Fine Work
Convenience Of The Evolving Internet Space
Pakistan Gul Ambreen (24/Female)

The term "Social Media" might best be defined as the process by which people interact with online services within virtual, cloud-based communities for the purposes of communication and sharing information. The process of social media has been in existence for well over fifteen years and dates back all the way to the birth of online bulletin boards prevalent during the late 90s. These bulletin boards allowed for information to be posted and for participants to post comments. Bulletin boards evolved into more of an e-mail-based listserve model driven by e-mail posts whereby members of a particular listserve could reply to e-mail threads. Today's social media takes advantage of cloud-based Social Media know-how and have left the bulletin board and listserve predecessors behind. However, the listserve is still a widely used tool throughout the vision impaired community.

For over a decade, we as a society have witnessed the phenomenon of social media. Belonging to these, Media has become the status quo for many of our sighted colleagues and friends, and many of us who are visually impaired have also benefitted greatly by participating. To be sure, there's more to these media than Facebook and Twitter. Social Media has become the standard by which so many of us communicate within the classroom and workplace and amongst acquaintances and friends with whom we share similar interests. Even educational institutions and places of employment are adopting ingredients of social media to create their own private medias for the purposes of disseminating information and promoting more optimal communication among their instructors, students, employers, and employees.

However, as with any technological advancement, a great deal of confusion surrounds the accessibility of these Medias for many of us who use access technologies. This confusion might be attributed to social media being rather intimidating to those who have visual impairments and have yet to access them. As a result, it's very easy to mask this confusion with a defense along the lines of not really wanting to be involved with social media or being too busy to take part. The reality is that social media has a great deal to offer us. Once the concept is firmly grasped and access obstacles dealt with, social media for people who are visually impaired can be rewarding, fulfilling, and fun.

In order to remove the mystery of social media for visually impaired, it is important to know what social media is, how it works, and why it is important.

The Foundation of Social Media
It's important to identify and grasp two key components without which social media as we know them today would not exist.

Social Media characteristics include but are not limited to:

Real-time provision of material by users. For example a forum where a question is posed and people respond with a variety of helpful answers.

Delivery of content via web-based applications to end users.

The assembling of groups of users for the dissemination of and interaction with various types of information, such as documents and aforementioned multi-media content.

Cloud Computing
The term that best describes this platform is the "cloud," another abstract concept that isn't that difficult to understand if we don't think too hard. The cloud is virtual space where Social Media websites and applications reside. The process of "cloud computing" as we know it allows us all to:

・Communicate and share information with others in realtime.

・Access websites and content from a variety of desktop and handheld computers with various operating systems.

・Store and retrieve information and media without the need for physical storage devices. No more misplacing those memory cards and thumb drives!

With the cloud as our foundation and social media firmly positioned as our vehicle for virtual access, we can now move towards a better understanding of online social media, what they are, how they work, and why they should matter to us.

Non-Visual Obstacles to Accessing Social Media

So, why aren't more of us benefiting from all of the good things that have been said about social media up until this point? Quite simply, there are definite access concerns to overcome that require a bit of strategizing and improvising. Here are just a few of them:

・The utilization of various types of web elements to access the types of features listed above.

・Social media developers' insatiable need to constantly make changes and updates to the interface and functionality. The dynamic nature of social media is one of the main factors that has an impact how we as computer users who are visually impaired access these sites. We might develop a strategy for virtual online access only to have the rules of the game changed, generally without much warning.

・The emergence of portable touchscreen technologies. These technologies offer us mobile apps, alternatives to visiting a particular web address to access a social Media. These apps are also susceptible to updates by developers, thus posing a risk for screenreading technologies to not always work as they did in previous versions of the app.

Now that we have a greater understanding of what social media is and how it is accessed by desktop computer users who are visually impaired, it's time to get on with the business of exploring a platform on which social medias truly shine. When social media came into existence several years ago, iOS and Android handsets and tablets as we know them today were virtually non-existent. While smartphones were prevalent, these devices lacked the hardware horsepower as well as the robust operating systems to support the expanding functionality of these virtual communities. What a difference a few years make.

Portable Social Media Layout

Social media apps adopt a layout that takes advantage of a series of buttons that refresh and change the layout of the screen. For most activities, this layout favors the visually impaired because the touchscreen on a tablet or phone is not cluttered with all the busy headings, frames, and landmarks present within a standard web page.

Conclusions about Social Media

To be sure, social Media for the vision impaired is not without its hiccups, but the benefits definitely outweigh the headaches. As far as browsing, reviewing, and sharing information with others, using desktop computers in conjunction with social media truly promotes the free exchange of information between sighted and visually impaired, which further lends itself to greater equal opportunity within the classroom, workplace, and throughout our communities. Also, document management, such as sharing PDFs or posting a resume using Microsoft Word to create it are exercises that are most optimal when using a desktop computer with Microsoft Office and/or Adobe software.

When the community of the visually impaired can fully embrace these changes and use this technology to our benefit, we will realize what a powerful, inclusive tool social media truly is. As we incorporate the use of social media into our technology journey, we'll begin to know when to use which tools when faced with specific situations and circumstances. I invite those who are not yet a part of this evolving process to engage with the ever-growing sphere of social media.


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