As harmful as the internet can be, sometimes it plays into the hands of people with disabilities quite nicely. For a population that sometimes struggles to convey how they feel to their peers, the World Wide Web could serve as a pulpit for conveying thoughts, dreams and fears, all from the comfort of their fingertips. Many people with disabilities, such as Ruby Ardolf, have made a name for themselves and change how others think about them by managing a YouTube channel.
Ardolf and others are using their newfound platform to debunk false stereotypes. On her channel, Ruby has videos of her and her mother, Angie Ardolf, taking in a movie or whatever else is going on in her life. It has given relatives and friends topics of conversation to engage with Ruby, really making others feel like Ruby is just like them and vice versa.
“Since I’ve been posting regularly, our whole family has a better relationship overall because when we get together, they already know stuff that has been going on in her life, and they actually have points of conversation with [Ruby],” Angie Ardolf told the Washington Post. “Same at school. The girls in school they know what’s going on. They can say, ‘Hey I heard you went to the movies this weekend.’ She can’t facilitate that all the time herself.”
While using social media could reap personal benefits for creators with disabilities, such as money and social outlets, it also reshapes public perception of people with disabilities. For example, a YouTube channel managed by 28-year-old Amythest Schaber was created for the primary purpose of changing the perception of autism.
“When I began to think that I might be autistic, and I went searching online, I mostly found information that was either very medicalized and difficult to understand or were resources written for the non-autistic parents of autistic children,” Schaber told the Washington Post. “Much of this information was presented in a negative manner that made autism seem like something scary or tragic. I decided to fill the gap. My goal was to be a source of information for people who are wondering if they are autistic, or anyone who wants to learn more about autism and what being autistic means.”
Since very little content is created about or for people with disabilities, artists could carve out their own niche. One former YouTuber, Tommy Edison, 56, accumulated more 650,000 followers as he posted Q&As about common misconceptions and questions related to blindness. Edison, who was born blind, is a successful motivational speaker now, and he credits the exposure from his YouTube channel, which he discontinued in 2018, for affording him those opportunities.
Hopefully more people with disabilities will decide to take advantage of the possibilities that social media has to offer.
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