DSQ > Winter/Spring 2007, Volume 27, No.1-2

Blogging brings more of us to the table <http://blobolobolob.blogspot.com>

I believe that blogging has a unique role in opening up debates around disability to a greater spectrum of both disabled and non-disabled people. These on-line debates are necessarily informal, but by no means ill-informed; they combine the expertise of academics, educators and activists alongside the experiences and viewpoints of those who are far less politicised, as well as those for whom the conventional settings for this discourse remain inaccessible for various reasons.

There are many advantages peculiar to on-line interaction in general; communicating in text from home puts those of us with any of the various impairments which effect communication on an equal footing with those who would be far more confident and articulate than us in person. We can use whatever technologies or techniques we need, both to absorb information and to make our own contribution in our own time, in our own way and out of the sight of those attributes we are judged by in our daily lives. These attributes include not only the easily perceptible indicators of impairment, such as dramatically different speech or movement, but it can also be the absence of such things; on-line, a person with invisible impairments does not need to justify themselves in any way before offering their perspective as a disabled person.

Never, outside the Internet, have I known people with such a variety of physical, intellectual, cognitive and mental health impairments engage in discussion about the issues which affect us all. Of course, not everybody is able to join in, but one finds greater representation than in almost any other environment.

Blogging is particularly accessible because it allows us as authors, readers and commenters — those who enter into debates on other people's websites - so much choice about how we use these tools.

The content of blogs is as various as the content of any other medium; to make generalisations about blogging is rather like making generalisations about the writing of books. Blogs are, if anything, more various because a blog doesn't require nearly so much work as a book might and is self-published with the click of a button. People can write about whatever they choose, in whatever manner they choose. They may include illustrations, photographs, even audio and video material. There are some highly political content blogs and some extremely personal blogs. Unsurprisingly, bloggers who write about disability are scattered right across the spectrum.

The very eclectic nature of many blogs published by disabled people and our allies has drawn many non-disabled people, as well as disabled people who are less politicized, into the debates. Readers comment that they have had no previous knowledge about or interest in disability, but having enjoyed what we've written about other issues or personal interests, and are learning almost by accident, becoming conscious of the environment, systems and behaviours which disable us. Only on personal blogs have I read accounts of the big ideas, such as the Social Model of Disability, written in a light-hearted, easily digestible way. It is to such blog-entries that I now direct people when I am trying to explain these things, as opposed to traditional academic resources.

To me, blogging is a very personal lifeline; it is a way in which I stay in touch with the world during periods where I am otherwise very isolated by my ill health. But it has also given me a unique opportunity to allow my own voice to be heard on matters of disability. I might not have an enormous crowd gathered around my own particular soapbox, but it is the only soapbox fully accessible to me.

Copyright (c) 2007 The Goldfish

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