G3ict is the Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs

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Nilofar Ansher

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01/12/2012

Social Networking Across Devices: Opportunity and Risk for the Disabled and Older Community


Introduction

The disabled and older community, arguably two of the most marginalised groups in today's society, via the Internet has an opportunity to be connected in a way that we have not seen before. Connected not just with other disabled users but also to family, friends, co-workers, employers, prospective employers, schools and colleges. This is a huge opportunity for marginalised
users to be part of wider community as a whole while interacting on what in theory should be a level playing field.
 
According to Tomi T Ahonen, technology author and strategy consultant, the Internet is the first media to cannibalise all prior media that came before such as print, TV and radio and add to it three new elements we have not seen before: interaction, search and social networking. Social networking is the pinnacle of connectedness and represents a whole new means in itself to interact with others and search for information. It is no longer a web of information but a web of people with shared ideas, interests and needs.
 
Social networking is popular worldwide and is the leading source of Web traffic for mobile devices. Image courtesy kellyhands.wordpress.com
 
Social networking is popular worldwide and is the leading source of Web traffic for mobile devices.
Image courtesy kellyhands.wordpress.com

We do not just want to consume content, we want to generate content and mobile is fast becoming the primary means to do that. In a 2008 survey on mobile usage from IBM Dr. Sungyoul Lee, Global Consulting Leader, Electronics Industry, IBM commented: "…over 50 percent of consumers would substitute their Internet usage on a PC for a mobile device….Worldwide adoption of the mobile phone as the preferred device for accessing the Internet is just around the corner.”
 
Users with disabilities do also have multiple devices and want to connect to their social networks of choice across these devices. Sites however, lack the accessibility to allow users to comfortably do this. If sites are inaccessible then the people who stand to benefit the most will be left behind. A very compelling use case for this location sensitive services whereby via mobile social networking users can get updates and information based on location. This could be essential for a wheel chair user, for example, who needed to find an accessible restaurant or hotel whilst at a certain location.
 

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