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Social Media 101 for Community of Persons with Disabilities ~ Debra Ruh, @debraruh

I am often asked why I adore social media.  Why?  It has the power to change lives and connect the community of persons with disabilities.  It is critical for the billion people with disabilities globally to come together on social media.  If our community came together on social media – we would be hard to ignore.  My daughter Sara has Down syndrome and she has made many friends on social media.

Social media is all about connecting, engaging and being social.  People do not want to be ‘talked at” or not ‘followed.  People want to follow someone that is real and engages back with others.  They want to get acknowledgment when they share your work.  They want to ask questions, get answers and have the ability to learn from each other.

I am still surprised by the number of people that will not follow others back.  Social media is SOCIAL.  I am blessed by my followers and enjoy engaging with these amazing people.  I have a pretty solid following and always try to follow back.  If I have missed you – just send me a note on social media and I will follow you.  However – I do not follow accounts that are up to mischief, porn, nasty posts.  I believe in free speech but do not want to contribute to negative or hurtful chatter on social media. I like @TedRubin advice and his hashtag #BeKind.

I believe that social media can be used for great good and great evil.  This medium cannot be ignored by the community of individuals with disabilities.  We must engage and empower with each other.  Plus show solid examples of how and why persons with disabilities add value to society and the workforce.

I use social media to chatter about Inclusion, Digital Divide, Disability Inclusion, ICT Accessibility, Digital Media, Women’s Issues, Civil Rights, Social Business, Robotics, Wearables, IoT, 3D Printing, Smart Cities and Social Good.

I believe that our community is starting to find our voices via social media.  However, there are some accessibility problems with social media.  Individuals with disabilities are often left out of the social media conversation because the social media platforms and apps are inaccessible.  Social media has to be accessible or we continue to widen the Digital Divide.  For example, video needs captions, graphics and pictures need text equivalents.

The Internet and Social Media has opened many opportunities and has improved the quality of life for these users, but many still face barriers.  If social media tools are not accessible those platforms stand to lose out to competitors that make the tools accessible for everyone.  Accessibility should be built into the system, website, app and platform just like privacy and security.

The good news is that social media applications can be made fully accessible allowing everyone to use them. Those efforts will support persons with disabilities, individuals that speak other languages, ICT novice and older users too.

Tips for engaging on social media and finding your voice:


It is critical to engage on social media to take full advantage of these powerful mediums.  For example: use the requote option on twitter to share good content and comment on the content.  Even saying – ‘good content – worth a share’ is appreciated by the authors of the post.  Or Say – “hello – thanks for the follow”.


Please follow others back if you like their content. Following and engaging are critical on social media.


Share content that speaks to you.  If you like the content – chances are others in your network will also enjoy it. Help spread the word about good content by sharing with your network.


It is critical to use #hashtags to help others find your content.  Hashtag important words in your posts like #disabilities, #socialgood, #accessibility and other keywords that people are tracking.  That way others can find your posts. Also this is a great way to find good people to follow.


Join multiple social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Linked-In, G+, Instagram, and Pinterest are a few common ones) to help build your network and following.


Use tools like Buffer App, Manage Flitter, KLOUT, Tweet Deck or Hootsuite to help manage activities and posts


Create a post to reward companies that are including us.  If a company includes a person with disabilities in their post – reward them by doing a post that reinforces their good behavior. Or a corporation gets recognized in the media for employing persons with disabilities.  Give them a positive shoutout on social media. When @Toyota supported the @SpecialOlympics. I tweeted their content and thanked them for supporting our community.


Often people join social media and start pushing their services or products (books, public speaking).  It is okay to share a little about your services but keep it to a minimum.  It is better to offer good content, share others content, engage and only occasionally talk about your services.  If you share good content people will take the time to learn about your services.


Take the time to set up a good profile that tells followers about your work.  Include your website if you have one and use keywords to describe yourself.  A good profile is worth its weight in gold.  


Social media can be used to help the community of individuals with disabilities find our voice.  We can break down the barriers that prevent us from being taken seriously as a community and market.


I had the pleasure to start #AXSChat with two partners from the UK, Neil Milliken @neilmilliken and Antonio Santos @akwyz.

AXSCHat is an open online community of individuals dedicated to creating an inclusive world; we believe that accessibility is for everyone. Social media has great power to connect people and we hope to accomplish and encourage in-depth discussion and spread knowledge about the work people are doing to enable greater access and inclusion through whatever means.

We host weekly video interviews and twitter chats with people who are contributing to making the world a more inclusive place through technology or innovating to enable wider participation in society for people with disabilities.

The topics will be wide ranging and we want to encourage discussion and ensure everyone has a voice on social media so we encourage you to take part by tweeting and using the hashtag #axschat.

We hold the chat every Tuesday at 3pmEST and 8pm GMT.  #AXSChat is a popular chat and is joined by people that are interested in accessibility, disability inclusion and empowerment from all over the world.  We would be honored for you to join the chat. You can learn more and view accessible and captioned videos of past guests at

Also want to know more about this topic – consider my book.  “Find Your Voice using Social Media” and please follow me @debraruh and I will follow you back.


Remember as @tedcoine a brilliant leader that also has dyslexia says, ‘Be a Giver not a Taker’.


To learn more about Debra Ruh, visit our website at or via social media @debraruh or @sararuh.

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