Disability Advocacy and Twitter: Why Use it?
This article is aimed at youth with disabilities who will be attending the My Future, My Vote Summit organized by Yo! Disabled and Proud and the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers on May 25, 2016, Sacramento, CA. Alice Wong, Gregg Beratan, and Andrew Pulrang will be giving a presentation about #CripTheVote and a portion of our talk will focus on usage of social media.
Other folks who are curious about Twitter and disability advocacy may be interested as well.
#CripTheVote is an online campaign that uses Twitter to have conversations about voting and disability issues. We also have blog posts and a Facebook group where we publish information about our upcoming events and news.
Social media is term that’s used a lot–you might hear about Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram as examples. Broadly speaking, social media are websites or apps that allow users to post information (text, photos, audio) and share it to the public or within a specific network of friends/colleagues.
This article will give a describe the pros and cons of using a social media platform such as Twitter and how to get started for first-time users.
Pros and Cons
Here are a few pros of using social media if you are a person with a disability and interested in disability issues:
- Most accounts are free*
- You can connect and find others with similar interests from all over the world
- You can learn about things that are happening in real-time
- You can learn about things that challenge you and make you think differently about disability issues
- You can share your thoughts widely to the public and they can influence and impact other people
- It can help build relationships, both in-person and online
- People can report/document what’s happening around them
It’s very trendy and can be fun but social media not everyone’s cup of tea. And that’s ok! Here are a few cons and limitations to social media:
- Although technically free*, some social media sites have ownership of the content you post, collect data on your usage, and feature advertising that you cannot opt out of
- Not everyone has access to the Internet, a smartphone, or a computer
- Not everyone is comfortable learning how to use social media
- Not everyone likes talking with people you can’t see face-to-face
- It can be a huge “time suck,” taking you away from other things important to your life
- Like “real life,” there is the potential for bullying and harassment on social media which can be a serious problem
- Accessibility issues continue to create barriers to some users with disabilities
For more pros and cons: http://socialnetworking.procon.org/#pro_con
Why does #CripTheVote use Social Media?
With all the cons and drawbacks to using social media, we decided that #CripTheVote will be an online campaign that takes place primarily on Twitter for several reasons:
- It takes a lot of resources and energy to organize in-person events
- We can have conversations with a wide swath of people with disabilities by using the #CripTheVote hashtag and having organized Twitter chats on specific issues
- It’s relatively easy to use social media and doesn’t require any special training or preparation (just practice!)
- For three people who don’t do this for a living or with any professional connections to the political world, Twitter is one way to insert ourselves into the broader policy/election discussion without any interference
We understand that our campaign will not reach everyone, but there are many other campaigns that are not online with similar goals. There’s something for everyone and there’s no wrong way to be an advocate.
What is a “Twitter Chat?” And while we’re at it, what’s a “hashtag?”
A Twitter Chat is a public discussion that uses a hashtag as a virtual meeting point on twitter. A hashtag is a way of making tweets more easily searchable. By using the hashtag (in this case #CripTheVote) one can find all of the tweets on a particular subject in one place by either clicking on the hashtag or using twitter’s search function. For an example of what a Twitter chat looks like, check out this example by Ruti Regan. It’s very helpful explaining the elements of a typical Twitter chat: https://storify.com/RutiRegan/examplechat
For more about #CripTheVote and frequently asked questions: http://disabilitythinking.com/faqs
To give you a sense of the kinds of Twitter chats hosted by Gregg Beratan, Andrew Pulrang and Alice Wong (the co-partners of #CripTheVote) check out this recent link that summarizes their recent chat on voter accessibility:
You can find all of our chats here:
Getting Started on Twitter
If you are curious and want to try Twitter for the first time, the first thing you need is an email address. Here are a few links that’ll help you get set up:
This 2012 article also gives useful tips on using Twitter for beginners: http://mashable.com/2012/06/05/twitter-for-beginners/#0tlbAHJfqEq7
You can be as involved or uninvolved on social media. Here are some things you can do with Twitter:
- Follow different organizations and people and read their tweets
- Send tweets to specific individuals when you use their Twitter handle (that is, their username/account)
- Re-tweet (share) any tweets that you like
- Look at various conversations happening in popular culture or current events such as #BlackLivesMatter or #AbleismExists
- Tweet links of articles or websites that you like
- Tweet messages or images you want to share
- And much more
Checking out #CripTheVote without Twitter
You don’t need a Twitter account if you want to follow the conversation happening in real-time. At any time, you can check this link: http://twubs.com/CripTheVote. This link will show all the tweets that use the CripTheVote hashtag and you can scroll up and down to read all the comments.
Logging in to Twitter: App for smartphone or desktop
If you use a smartphone, you’ll need to download the Twitter app. This is what you’ll see from an iPhone when you go to the App Store and search for “Twitter”:
If you want to tweet from your computer, you can log in here, at https://twitter.com/
Once you log in with the account that you created, you will see this (example of Alice’s Twitter account on her computer):
Read the various tweets people are sharing.
In the search box at the upper right side of the Twitter website or app, type a hashtag, a name, a keyword of whatever you’re looking for. If you enter #CripTheVote, you’ll see this page:
You can Read ‘Top’ tweets that are most popular and shared. ‘Live’ tweets show the most recent ones, and other tabs that with News, Photos, and Videos.
Tweeting with the #CripTheVote hashtag: Selfie edition
Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to tweet a photo or message using the #CripTheVote hashtag. Totally up to you, but it might be a fun first-step in connecting with people with disabilities who are interested in voting and current events.
Visibility of people with disabilities is important. Selfies/photos are a wonderful way to share a brief message and say, “Hey, I’m here and this is what matters to me!” Saying who you are and what you care about is a form of advocacy that can lead to a broader community.
Take a photo!
Photos or short videos can make powerful statements. If you’re at the Voting Summit, feel free to complete the sentence, “I vote because…” and take a photo of you with a sign that will be available at the event (or use any piece of paper).
You can take one during the Yo! Voting Summit or afterward. You can use the Twitter app or their desktop version. Here is Alice’s photo from her iPhone:
Tweet Your Photo with a Message!
This is a step-by-step for iPhone users. It might be different for Android or other phones.
Step 1: Open your Photos on your phone
Step 2: Select the photo you want to post on Twitter by clicking on it
Step 3: Below your selected photo, you can see the options you have for sharing your photo. Swipe left or right until you see the Twitter icon and select it.
Step 4: A small window will open that is connected to your Twitter account (and app). Type your message. Remember, you can only type a message no more than 140 characters (including spaces). Be sure to use the #CripTheVote hashtag
Step 5: After you type your message, click ‘Post’ on the upper right-hand corner of the window. Below is an example of Alice’s photo. She typed the same message on her sign so it’s accessible to all users.
When you type your message, sometimes you’ll see different hashtags that match the one you’re about to type. For example, when Alice started typing the hashtag, #CripTheVote appeared in a list. You can select it without typing the whole thing.
Step 6: This is what the tweet looks like that’s ready to post. Click “Post.”
Step 7: After clicking “Post,” open your Twitter app on your phone.
Step 8: This is what it looks like from Alice’s Twitter account. Now it is public for all to see. If you click on the tweet, you can see the entire image.
If you’re feeling really ambitious, you can now add descriptions (alternative text) to any images you post using Twitter: https://support.twitter.com/articles/20174660
If you’re more into Instagram, you can do the same thing and share on Facebook or Flickr at the same time. The steps are similar–just follow these step-by-step images.
Step 1: Open Instagram
Step 2: Select the middle button in blue at the bottom of the screen. Select an image from your photo library (from your phone).
Step 3: Type your caption. Instagram is great because you can write longer messages. Don’t forget the hashtag!!
You can tag your friends on Instagram or post the same image and caption to other social media sites connected that you might use such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr.
Note: I don’t select Twitter when I use Instagram because the image doesn’t appear on Twitter, just a link back to Instagram.
Step 4: When you’re done, click “Share.”
Here’s the same message I tweeted on Twitter, but this time on Instagram using the same hashtag. No matter what social media site you use, people can find similar posts on under this keyword.
Have fun with social media if you already use it or are interested in trying it! There’s no wrong way to do it and you’ll get the hang of it eventually. If you’re shy, you can post message without a photo.
It’s up to you how much you want to reveal. You are in control.
Don’t Be a Stranger!
We’d love to hear from you! Feel free to email us: DisabilityVisibilityProject@gmail.com
Or if you’re on Twitter, you can follow Andrew, Gregg, and Alice: