New research and guides released today by blind internet expert Dr Scott Hollier from Media Access Australia (MAA) aim to make Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter more accessible for people with a disability - to ensure one in five Australians aren’t left behind as social media use becomes more popular.

Research conducted overseas in 2011, which measured various social media applications against world accessibility guidelines, found LinkedIn was the most accessible social media platform – with a usability score of just 29%. Facebook scored just 9% and Twitter scored 0, due to every element of its website being inaccessible.

Web accessibility refers to the degree to which people with disability can perceive, understand, navigate and interact online.

Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes AM today commended the report.
“It’s critical that – as we get more and more connected as a community – people with disability are not left out. This report will be a very useful tool in ensuring that does not occur.”

Dr Hollier conducted an eight-month qualitative study among people who are blind or vision-impaired, Deaf or hearing-impaired and people with mobility impairments and found there was a strong desire among those who weren’t already using social media for tools to teach them how.  

Dr Hollier says social media creators are slowly starting to develop tools so that everyone can access sites.

“Facebook now has a phone app that is very accessible for people with vision impairments, for example – whereas three years ago getting to the content was virtually impossible to,” says
Dr Hollier.

“Our research found that the Deaf and hearing-impaired communities for example are increasingly using Facebook as a way to keep in touch with friends, for news, entertainment and use the platform much in the same way as everyone else does. Another participant who had a mobility disability said he mostly logged into the site to get access to cheap pizza vouchers from Domino’s!”

Dr Hollier says social media growth has exploded in Australia since he last conducted a Social Media Access Review in 2009. Facebook for example has ten million users in Australia and 1.9 million users a month access Twitter.

“We used to get questions from people like ‘Should I be using Facebook or MySpace?’” he says.
Now the questions are a lot more specific, like ‘How can I access Facebook and how can I use Twitter?’”

To this end, and through funding provided by the ACCAN Grants Scheme, Dr Hollier is today launching a series of user guides for people with disability for various applications including Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, blogging and Skype.

The SOCIABILITY Guides will be distributed to disability organisations around Australia and are also available via the Media Access Australia and ACCAN websites.

“We expect these guides to be very popular. Our research has found that people with disability are keen to use social media to engage, participate and share funny videos of cats – just like everyone else!”

“It’s vitally important, with the speed at which technology is moving, that people with disability aren’t left behind.”

Link to research report SOCIABILITY: Social Media for People With a Disability

Link to SOCIABILITY User Guides

Media contact: Elise Davidson 0409 966 931

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