This paper presents qualitative research on the use of Facebook by visually impaired people and organizations representing them in Jordan, Peru, and India. We found that individuals and organizations have very different motivations and pathways for using social media. Social media serve as a means to help individuals with vision impairments to expand their social circles, network with casual acquaintances, and find various kinds of social and technical resources independently. However on issues of representation we found that social media have the potential to play a double-edged sword, reinforcing in some cases the same stereotypes that individual users of assistive technology (AT) sought to overcome by using technology in their professional lives. We find that individuals often characterize social media and assistive technology in the same vein — suggesting that for many parts of the global South, the dramatic change in the means and ability to leverage social and professional possibilities has not come from any one technology alone, but from a broader evolution of the technological environment available to people with vision impairments. Access to social media and technology disrupt an environment in which social and economic spaces for people with disabilities are still a zone of contestation between a dominant discourse of vision impairment enforced by generations of negative representations of disability, and a new world of technology users challenging representations and assumptions as engaged, connected professionals.
Disability and the Global South (DGS), 2015, Vol. 2 No. 3