Social Media and the Spectrum of Human Ability

Social media influencers who educate through the sharing of their lived experiences, opinions and abilities.

Person with physical use constraints using a stylus in mouth to navigate mobile device on table at home with credit card off to the side

Well hello, it’s Liza, your friendly neighborhood ADA Coordinator at Tamman Inc. I recently underwent a rather abrupt career change, which snuffed out my childhood customer service dreams, but also introduced me to the wide and wonderful world of accessibility. While I was reading up on the job essentials like statistics, laws, and ratios, I realized how much disability representation had been absent from my life, both in the physical and digital realms.

Now, I could blame insufficient curb cuts, or buildings without elevators for the former, but I’m the one who controls my media intake. There is a serious lack of disability representation in our mainstream media, but that deserves its own blog post. Besides, for better or worse, I find that social media has been playing a larger role in my everyday life. Focusing on the better, it affords me the opportunity to make conscious choices about what I want to learn and who I want to learn it from. Using my lived experience and my limited imagination, I can account for my small section on the spectrum of human ability. If I want to make sure that my work is accessible to everyone, it’s essential that I gain perspectives from all parts of the spectrum.

Annasarol – Speaking of spectrums, Anna’s posts run the gamut from educational videos, to beautiful motivational performance pieces. She articulates some of the deeper emotional effects of injury and society’s view of disability.

Chellaman – Chella Man is an artist, activist, model, motivational speaker, and more. He sends a strong message with each post, touching on topics like gender, religion, and politics. He highlights the role that intersectionality plays in inclusion and access.

Crisunkim – Any football fans out there might recognize Christine Sun Kim from her ASL performance of the National Anthem at Super Bowl LIV. She is a sound artist whose work has been shown all over the world, and recently in Times Square. She shares bits of her journey as a mother, and an American living in Berlin.

Jordan.asl – Jordan is an ASL-interpreting student who posts videos of children learning ASL. As someone who has always had an interest in sign language, this account gave me a view of the classroom that I didn’t get to experience myself, including variations on classroom games, ASL sentence structure, and kids learning a language made especially for them.

Thejourneyofabravewoman – Marcela posts about all of her travel experiences as a woman using a wheelchair. One of her posts popped into my feed when she was climbing Mt Kilimanjaro. She shows her journey using new assistive technology, and is a strong advocate for accessibility.

Rollettes_la– An LA-based wheelchair dance team. I love dancing, and follow a number of accessible dance accounts. These women have been making very entertaining videos during quarantine that also educate fans about the everyday experiences of wheelchair users. I’ve started following a number of the Rollettes individually, after watching how funny they are off of the dance floor.

Habengirma – You may have already heard of Haben Girma. She is a widely respected disability rights lawyer, as well as a public speaker and author. You will see her post about civil rights, her experience being the first deafblind graduate of Harvard, and journeys with her guide dog, Mylo.

Wheelchair_rapunzel – Alex is a fierce advocate for disabled bodies and their representation. The body/sex positive movement is growing online, and any person can benefit from Alex’s perspective, regardless of where you fall on the spectrum of human ability. We have a lot of social justice work on many fronts that needs doing, and intersectionality is absolutely essential to making sure everyone’s lifted up together, and no one gets left behind.

Joyrossblind – Joy’s account was one of the first that I found online. I was trying to find playing cards that were also printed in Braille. A video popped up where she expressed her excitement over finding a Braille version of the card game UNO. She was happy to have a game that she could play with her children. She is a singer, and posts solos and duets with friends, as well as stories with her guide dog Arabella. All of her posts have added alternate text, with very detailed descriptions.

Deafmemes.exe – For the ‘online’ among us; may I present deafmemes.exe. This collection of content is intended to make you laugh, but it also illustrates frustrations that the Deaf community experiences when engaging with the sign-language impaired, and environments designed without every person in mind. I experience difficulty understanding some of the posts, because I don’t yet know sign language. It made it clear to me that captions aren’t a product of disability — they are a necessity for any content-producer who wants everyone to get their message. I don’t consider myself as having a disability in this case, but if the content isn’t designed accessibly, then the content itself is disabling to the user, regardless of their primary method of perception.

It’s been more than a year now, that I’ve been learning about accessibility and disability, and social media accounts still remain some of the most insightful resources. Certifications and courses are a great way to build up your skills and keep current with the always-changing laws and standards. For me, I found that the accessibility picture was missing some very large pieces that weren’t filled in until I’d heard directly from the minds and bodies themselves. One of the keys to accessibility is understanding that every single person experiences and interacts with the world in their own way. Diversifying your social media diet brings new perspectives into view, not only helping to expand your definition of human ability, but your ideas on what can be made possible through access and inclusion.

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Establishing Accessibility Infrastructure through Assessments

To make public transportation work in a major city, everyone from the riders to the workers need to be considered in the design process. Tamman partnered with the company that builds the back-end applications for a large public transit system. Completing thirteen thematic assessments for the applications that transit employees and riders will utilize on a daily basis.

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