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Accessible Social

An Introduction to Disability

An estimated 1 in 6 people has some sort of disability, or about 16 percent of the global population. These disabilities could be physical, cognitive, learning, spinal, psychological, or sensory. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are about 2.2 billion people around the world who have some form of vision impairment ranging from mild to severe, and roughly 5 percent of the population has disabling hearing loss.

That’s a huge portion of the world population that may need assistive technology or accommodations to navigate the online world and access digital content like social media. These numbers could also be much larger because not everyone is comfortable disclosing they have a disability or considers themself disabled.

Someone doesn’t need to have a visible or permanent disability to be impacted by accessibility practices either. Disability is diverse and it comes in different forms. It’s also the only diverse community that is possible to join and leave. Some individuals are born with their disability, others become disabled later in life. It’s a full spectrum of possibilities and scenarios. 

  • Temporary disabilities can result from an injury like a bruised eye or illness such as experiencing hearing loss due to a serious ear or sinus infection.
  • Situational disabilities are affected by a person’s environment or circumstances like having trouble seeing a screen in different levels of lighting or difficulty hearing audio in loud, crowded spaces.
  • Episodic disabilities are disabilities that have no discernible pattern. They can affect a person at any given time and change how they interact with the world. Examples would be migraines, vertigo, chronic pain, asthma, and some forms of mental illness like PTSD and bipolar disorder.
  • Dynamic disabilities are similar to episodic disabilities in that they usually have no discernible pattern. They swing in severity, where all or one of the symptoms of a chronic illness are more active or worsen for a period of time. Disabilities associated with chronic pain can often be dynamic with the severity of pain fluctuating over time.
  • Invisible/hidden disabilities are not immediately apparent upon looking at someone. These could be anything from hearing loss or chronic pain to neurological disorders or mental illness.

The diversity of the disabled community is important to keep in mind when developing a social media strategy. Content that isn't inclusive could be acting as a barrier and preventing people from accessing valuable information. 

This should be a major concern in general for marketers and digital professionals, but especially when it comes to crisis communications, time-sensitive information, and any kind of messaging concerning the health and well-being of others.

Additional Resources and Reading

Want to learn a little more about disability and digital accessibility? Check out the links below!