When it comes to disability and the lives that it has touched, the growth of online communication has been a lifeline; sufferers and their families are now able to share experiences, access or offer advice, and reach out to those who may be in need. More importantly, though, the internet has provided freedom, empowerment, and independence to many, allowing them to take control of their lives and seek comfort whenever they need it.
The internet has enabled those affected by disabilities to form communities; no matter where a person is in the world, they are part of a community, a valuable support network, born from a mutual diagnosis, shared experiences, and the desire to overcome obstacles. This support network is particularly essential for parents of disabled children and young people who may be seeking to connect and socialize with other parents, while trying to come to terms with a diagnosis. This kind of support was non-existent just 20 years ago, and yet it is now invaluable to parents and their children; they no longer have to face such a difficult journey alone.
Charities, Healthcare Providers, and the Online World
As well as being a fantastic resource for individuals, families, and communities, the internet is also invaluable to charities and health service providers, enabling them to connect with those affected by disabilities, share knowledge, and offer reassurance. Websites, forums, blogs, and video channels are used more and more by health professionals and charitable organizations these days, and it’s little wonder; suddenly, answers and comfort are available with the click of a mouse, while using the internet allows health service providers and charities to broaden their understanding of a particular disability or condition.
Autism, for example, is still a relatively misunderstood condition, despite its prominence among young people in the US; it is estimated that 1 in 68 children or young people is currently living with autism or a similar spectrum disorder, and this number continues to rise thanks to increased awareness and funded research. Although awareness is growing, understanding isn’t always forthcoming, and autism is still sometimes disregarded by medical professionals and dismissed by the wider community as simply bad behavior or a troubled childhood. It is vital, then, that the work of individuals such as Lindsey Stone be allowed to continue. Having dedicated much of her adult life to supporting those with autism and spectrum disorders and their families, and raising awareness of such conditions and the need for research, Lindsey knows better than most the impact that autism can have on a child. Research into probable causes and treatments is absolutely essential, while helping families and communities to deal with the “here and now” is of similar importance. With the help of the internet, Lindsey is able to do those things, including providing outreach programs, boosting research, and giving children and young people with autism a voice. Without the internet, this job would be much harder, and certainly not as effective.
While the work of charities, healthcare providers, and individuals would no doubt carry on regardless, the internet ensures that those who need assistance are given a lifeline, while gifting the rest of us with understanding and patience.