New Trends in Citizen Media: Disability Media

Citizen media have flourished and taken on new forms on the internet, and people with disabilities have been among the pioneers in this area as they sought to increase their agency in how disability is represented and aimed to create media that are not only accessible, but also relevant to people with a wide range of disabilities. I explored the evolution of “Disability Media” — media created by people with disabilities with a view to presenting distinctive disability viewpoints on key issues and experiences relevant to the disability community — and their relationship with ever changing technologies in an entry in the recently published Routledge Encyclopedia of Citizen Media.

There is an incredible amount of grassroots innovation in today’s disability media, and this new entry seeks to capture and critically discuss the work of these citizen media activists in conjunction with long term trends in media representations and technological evolution. Here’s a short summary of the entry (contact me for a pre-print copy of the full text):

Disability and disability-related issues are often ignored or misrepresented in mainstream news and popular media. Disability scholars have also argued that initiatives launched by major news organizations to provide better representations of disability, such as the BBC’s Ouch! website, have fallen short of expectations to incorporate the perspective of persons with disabilities effectively (Riley 2005). In addition, traditional forms of media are not fully accessible to Deaf and hard-of-hearing people, nor to people with different disabilities including, to name a few, blind and vision-impaired people, people with intellectual disabilities, and language processing issues. To address these problems, disability communities and Disabled People’s Organizations (DPOs) have built alternative media outlets with a view to providing accessible news coverage, enhancing the visibility of disability issues, and contrasting ableist and stereotypical representations of disability both within news and popular culture (Ellis and Goggin 2015a; Haller, 2010). While historically most of these efforts were oriented toward the provision of information to the disability community and meeting its various accessibility needs, the proliferation of digital media has enabled exponential growth in the disability media sector. Dozens of new disability news websites, blogs, podcasts, sign language video services on YouTube and other media are created every year, and can reach ever expanding audiences (Ellis and Goggin 2015b). Importantly, many of these outlets seek to have an impact beyond the disability community and influence legacy media and non-disabled audiences more broadly.

This entry provides a brief history of disability media initiatives and reviews their relationship with the changing technologies and organizational structures that support them. In particular, grassroots projects that seek to empower aspiring disabled writers, reporters, and videographers and augment the visibility of their content, such as Rooted in Rights and The Disability Visibility Project, are presented. The entry discusses how these initiatives, which follow in the footsteps of community-based projects that equipped people with disabilities with key journalistic skills (Thorsen, Jackson and Luce 2015) and build on the use of unmediated storytelling in disability rights advocacy (Trevisan, 2017), empower new disabled voices to challenge the status quo, enrich news and popular culture with more diverse disability representations, and can become catalysts for the participation of the disability community in key civic moments such as elections and important policy debates.

Doing Inclusive Research: Tips for Accessible Focus Groups

Doing Inclusive Research: Tips for Accessible Focus Groups

I love running focus groups, both from a research and human perspective, but traditionally this method has been far from universally accessible. For example, traditional focus groups present important challenges for people with communication disabilities and disorders, which currently are over 10% of the U.S. adult population.

As someone who cares deeply about the inclusion of traditionally under-represented voices in research, I think there’s a lot that we can do to re-think methodologies to make them more accessible. In an article I published in the journal Qualitative Research earlier this year, I drew on my experience organizing, moderating, and analyzing focus groups to discuss low-cost, relatively straightforward, and flexible solutions to ensure that people with communication disabilities and disorders are equally as empowered as any other participant to contribute their perspectives, opinions, and experiences to these studies. While this article can only begin to scratch the surface of this issue, I hope it will help us start a conversation about how to adapt and innovate qualitative research in all fields to make it simultaneously more inclusive and more valid.

You can find the full article here (get in touch directly for a pre-print version, if you like):

Trevisan, F. (2020) Making focus groups accessible and inclusive for people with communication disabilities: a research note. Qualitative Research, published online before print.

And here’s the abstract for a quick preview:

Participating in focus groups can be challenging for people with communication disabilities. Given that more than 1 in 10 adults has a communication disability, focus groups that overlook their needs exclude a large part of the population. This research note makes a unique contribution toward creating more inclusive focus groups by discussing a variety of strategies employed in a recent study of political participation among Americans with disabilities that included a high proportion of participants with communication disorders. Universal design principles can support the “mainstreaming” of communication disabilities in focus group research, contributing to more inclusive and representative social science scholarship.

New Article on Social Media, Disability, and Mental Health in Elections

SM+S coverI’m delighted to share my latest open access article ‘Do you want to be a well-informed citizen, or do you want to be sane?’ Social Media, Disability, Mental Health and Political Marginality, which was published earlier this month in Social Media + Society. The article reviews evidence from focus groups with voters with disabilities to explore their experience with Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter during the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. From this, social media platforms emerge as both empowering tools and sources of mental health problems for this traditionally marginalized group in an increasingly polarized political context such as the U.S.

This article is part of a forthcoming special issue on Social Media and Marginality expertly edited by Katy Pearce, Amy Gonzales, and Brooke Focault-Welles.

Here is a copy of the abstract, for the full open access article click here.

This article examines the experiences of people with disabilities, a traditionally marginalized group in US politics, with social media platforms during the 2016 presidential election. Using focus groups with participants with a wide range of disabilities, the significance of YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook is discussed. Results highlight ambivalent experiences with these platforms, which support some elements of political inclusion (more accessible and more relevant election information) but at the same time also exacerbate aspects of marginality (stress, anxiety, isolation). Four coping strategies devised by participants to address digital stress (self-censorship, unfollowing/unfriending social media contacts, signing off, and taking medication) are illustrated. The relationship between these contrasting findings, social media design and affordances, as well as potential strategies to eliminate an emerging trade-off between discussing politics online and preserving mental health and social connectedness for people with disabilities are discussed.

New Open Access Article in International Journal of Communication

homeHeaderLogoImage_en_USMy latest article “Using the Internet to Mobilize Marginalized Groups: People with Disabilities and Digital Campaign Strategies in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election” was recently published in the International Journal of Communication. This article discusses how the 2016 campaigns – particularly Hillary Clinton’s – tried to engage with the disability community online and draws key lessons about the inclusion of people with disabilities and other minority groups in digital election strategy planning. The full paper can be accessed freely here.

Here’s the abstract:

It is important to understand the implications of online election campaigning for groups that have been marginalized in politics. To this end, this article discusses a focus group study on digital campaigning in the 2016 U.S. presidential election with voters with a wide range of physical, mental, and communication disabilities. Digital campaigns can deepen or curtail opportunities for people with disabilities to be active citizens. Participants in this study had high expectations to learn about the candidates through new media platforms, particularly Google and YouTube. However, the 2016 campaigns seemed to struggle to understand Americans with disabilities as an emerging online constituency. This mismatch between demand and supply in online election communication is discussed with a view to illuminating the sociotechnical foundations of digital campaigning and its effect on political participation among citizens with disabilities. There are important opportunities for digital mobilization and inclusion here, but their realization is dependent on a cultural shift that values people with disabilities as full citizens.

Disability, Technology and Human Rights Panel at ISA 2019

I look forward to taking part in a special panel on disability, technology and human rights at the 2019 International Studies Association’s Convention in Toronto, Canada on Saturday March 30, 1:45pm. The panel, which is titled “Accessible Global Governance: Technological and Policy Innovation in Support of Disability, Development, and Human Rights for All,” brings together a group of research leaders in disability and human rights to discuss emerging opportunities for disability advocacy on the global scale.

This panel is sponsored by American University’s Institute on Disability and Public Policy (IDPP).

In my presentation, I will discuss some of the highlights from the first global survey of Disabled People Organizations’ (DPO) leaders about accessibility and the potential role of technology at international conferences, meetings, and events.

Panel details: Saturday March 30, 1:45pm-3:30pm, Yorkville West, Sheraton Center, Toronto

Culture, Diversity and Inclusion Mini-Track at HICSS 52

This week I’m honored to co-chair the Culture, Diversity and Inclusion mini-track at the 52nd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS) together with my AU colleagues Derrick Cogburn and Nanette Levinson. The mini-track includes two exciting sessions at 8:00am and 10:00am on Friday January 11th with a total of five papers focusing on issues of disability, race, and age in digital and social media.

As part of this mini-track, I’m also going to present a paper I co-authored with Derrick Cogburn on “Technology and Grassroots Inclusion in Global Governance: A Survey Study of Disability Rights Advocates and Effective Participation.” The paper discusses the first global survey of disability rights advocates about their use of technology to participate in global governance processes including both U.N. and non-U.N. international meetings, conferences, and events, as well as the use of social media to engage with disability grassroots in their respective countries. To access a free copy of the paper, click here.

“Disability Rights Advocacy Online” Reviewed in Disability & Society

My book “Disability Rights Advocacy Online: Voice, Empowerment and Global Connectivity” received a great review in Disability & Society, the premier scholarly journal in disability studies. In the review, Gabor Petri (University of Kent) wrote that “Disability Rights Advocacy Online is a book by Filippo Trevisan that has been badly missing from disability studies. […] traditional social movement studies usually ignore disability – but one could argue that disability studies equally bypasses social movement and media studies. This book is capable of not only filling a gap between these disciplines but also proposes questions and shows directions for further research. […] Trevisan’s excellent book will inspire researchers to build on the best traditions of disability studies and do more work in this multidisciplinary, fertile area for inquiries.

To read the full review, click here (free access).

To learn more and purchase the book, click here (use code “FLR40” at checkout for 20% off).

New White Paper: Accessibility in Global Governance

AGG cover pageOn International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2018, the Institute on Disability and Public Policy (IDPP) launched a new white paper report on “Accessibility in Global Governance: The (In)Visibility of Persons with Disabilities.” Co-authored by the IDPP Executive Director Derrick Cogburn and myself, this white paper is the culmination of a two-year research project that included subject matter expert interviews and a global survey of disability rights advocates from over 50 countries, most of whom in developing parts of the world.

This research, which was supported by The Nippon Foundation, is the first study to comprehensively map barriers to accessibility at United Nations meetings, conferences, and events, as well as other important international forums. In addition, the report also offers examples and recommendations based on recent international conferences that pioneered the use of accessible Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs, including both web-conferencing software and telepresence robots) to facilitate effective remote participation for people with disabilities.

To read and download the full report, click here.

Now in Paperback – Disability Rights Advocacy Online

Book Cover_2

Book cover: Disability Rights Advocacy Online

My book Disability Rights Advocacy Online: Voice, Empowerment and Global Connectivity is now available in paperback edition. Click here to order your copy and use discount code FLR40 at check out for 20% off. If you are interested in using the book for one of your classes, you can also order an inspection e-copy – I’d love to hear from you if you plan to include this work in your courses!

The book examines the rapid and unexpected digitalization of disability rights advocacy in the UK and the U.S., discussing the tension between the ability of digital advocacy to enhance the stakes in democratic citizenship for Internet users with disabilities and persisting Web accessibility issues. Given the urgency of crises faced by people with disabilities and other marginalized groups around the world, this book draws valuable lessons for anyone interested in progressive digital advocacy and inclusive social change. To read the full synopsis, click here.

Connective Action Mechanisms in a Time of Political Turmoil: Virtual Disability Protest at Donald Trump’s Inauguration – New article

 

AusJPS coverMy latest article is just out in the Australian Journal of Political Science. “Connective Action Mechanisms in a Time of Political Turmoil: Virtual Disability Protest at Donald Trump’s Inauguration” examines the forces that underpin the rapid formation of online counter-publics in the wake of disruptive political events such as Donald Trump’s election. Both the advantages and disadvantages of connective action as a response to this type of political upheaval among traditionally marginalized populations are discussed through a case study of virtual disability protest at Donald Trump’s inauguration (the “Disability March“). This article is part of a forthcoming special issue edited by Ariadne Vromen (University of Sydney) and Andrea Carson (University of Melbourne) for the Australian Political Science Association’s POP Politics Aus Group. Please contact me if you need a link to a free copy of this article. Here is the abstract:

This paper explores the connective action mechanisms that underpin the rapid formation of online counter-publics in the wake of disruptive political events through a case study of crowd-sourced disability protest launched in response to Donald Trump’s election as U.S. President. Coverage of this protest in U.S. news media is reviewed also as a first step towards assessing the ability of this initiative to influence public discourse. Findings suggest that controversial election results can spur mobilisation, but by themselves do not appear to be sufficient for connective action to really flourish and succeed. Personal action frames that typically are central to connective action struggled to emerge in crowd-sourced contributions that focused on Trump and his politics. The reasons behind these outcomes and their implications for the potential effectiveness of crowd-sourced protest are discussed.