Social media hashtags offer disabled youth a space to express themselves, break stereotypes
Social media has increasingly emerged as a powerful medium to garner support for important issues and build public opinion. It may not always have a positive outcome but no doubt it has helped mobilize support, the #MeToo movement being a case in point, where the outpouring transcended geographical barriers and boundaries.
For the disability rights movement, social media has emerged as a powerful too. Over the last 5-6 years, hashtags about disabilities have become increasingly common on social media and have helped engage different sections of society, offering a forum for a free and frank exchange of ideas.
A recent campaign by LGBTQ rights activist and disabled person Andrew Guzra under the hashtag #DisabledPeopleAreHot asked people with disabilities to share their pictures, in stylish and elegant outfits. Guzra's campaign got a lot of attention and built a conversation on the need for adaptive designs for people with disabilities.
Similarly, disability rights activist Imani Barbarin's #AbledsAreWeird campaign was all about disabled people sharing their uncomfortable encounters with non-disabled people. Barbarin's campaign helped many people connect.
In India too, a lot of youngsters find social media campaigns a great way to raise awareness.
Take Pulkit Sharma, a wheelchair user in New Delhi, who reviews accessibility features of restaurants and is a video logger. Sharma recently started a campaign under the hashtag #DisabledPeopleAreHot. He feels such campaigns offer a platform for disabled people to break notions about disability.
Recently, I happened to see a photo of a young girl on a wheelchair online. She was very beautiful, fashionable and had a great sense of style and charisma. Her style was powerful and inspiring. Similarly, I saw a young man on a wheelchair wearing a different style of moustache and it looked great. There are a lot of misconceptions about disabled people, especially when it comes to style and looks. It is high-time that such online campaigns are introduced so that more people can share what they feel. They are motivating and help to create awareness as well. These hashtags provide a platform for people who are underrated-Pulkit Sharma, Video logger
Some empowering online campaigns that became very popular are #TheBarriersWeFace, #AbleismExists, #ActuallyAutistic, #DeafTalent, #WheelchairLife and #HotPersonInAWheelchair to name a few.
Penav Mota, a blind student, believes such campaigns offer disabled people an opportunity to come forward and share their experiences.
"Nowadays, social media is a very powerful tool and youngsters are coming forward to make maximum use of it. Society hardly sees a disabled person beyond their disability. So whether they are good-looking, strong, talented or skilled, it never really matters. When you see a blind or deaf Miss World competition, it is truly inspiring. These online campaigns do something similar by motivating people to come forward and share things. The positive and negative comments and suggestions that are given by people also matters, says Mota.
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