Helping women with disabilities participate and be heard.
Web 2.0. Such a sterile name for something so personal.
And Web 2.0 is personal. It is a conversation and a medium, an equaliser and a democratiser. It takes the stories previously shared to thousands by a select, privileged few (whether in free or unfree media) and bursts them wide open. With basic internet access, social media tools and free blogging sites, anyone can share news, say what they think about it, and help decide the agenda of their local and worldwide communities.
Web 2.0 gives people a voice. There aren't many pieces of technology that can say they do that.
Given its flexibility and freedom, the potential of Web 2.0 for empowering women in both developed and developing countries is clear. It allows women to speak, and therefore concretely and measurably become a part of history. No longer can historians ignore the experiences of women, and with only 16% of women being the focus of global news stories, this is important. Finally, women’s voices can be shouted from the (metaphorical) rooftops.
However, if giving women a voice worldwide is important, the empowerment of women with disabilities is even more vital. Since they make up just 10% of all women globally, women with disabilities are even less likely to be heard than other women. Already, research for the World Bank notes that women with disabilities report “feeling “invisible” in the development context and largely absent from the development agenda”. Elsewhere, in my own childhood, I remember being told by a soon-to-be-close-friend that she thought (before she met me) that all deaf people looked like they had Downs Syndrome.
This has to change.
And Web 2.0 can help change it.
When done right, the internet is a powerful tool for women with a disability. Facilities for enlarging text, describing graphics, uploading videos with sign language, providing transcripts or captions, are just some of the things giving women with disabilities access to information they would not otherwise hear or see. Elsewhere, Twitter, Facebook and webpages, allow communities to be developed worldwide based on shared experience and knowledge about – or in spite of – disability.
As a deaf woman, I already use Web 2.0 tools to make myself heard and make worldwide connections. I’ve met deaf people in Mongolia and even started a website called DeafPlanet that provides travel advice in sign language (with captions) for deaf, hard of hearing and signing Australians. Now, with my and others’ experiences on record, history can show that deaf women and other women with disabilities, are independent, strong, capable women. No pity party for us. We're just like you. Only different.
Web 2.0? Women worldwide – with disabilities or without – welcome you.