Whose Planet Is It Anyway?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Writing the Future into Existence

I had another one of my strange metaphorical dreams this morning. It had to do with some people's ideas being like tattoos or cosmetic surgery, in that although they're put on for the purpose of appearing more socially attractive, they actually do become part of the person.

That fits into my intended theme for today's post, which is how disability rights blogging can contribute to bringing about a more inclusive society. Last week, I received a survey from a group in India called Deepstambha, which is seeking "to understand the issues and concerns of the socio-medically disadvantaged being highlighted in the blogosphere."

Before I post the survey questions, I'd like to comment on the term "socio-medically disadvantaged." I haven't seen this term before, and I think it's a very good way of describing disability because it acknowledges that medical labels are social constructs and that the resulting disadvantages are also, to a large extent, socially determined. That's a lot of thoughtful description packed into just two words!

These are the questions:

(1) Do you think the blogosphere can contribute towards highlighting the issues and concerns of the persons with disability and the terminally ill? If yes, how?

(2) Can blogs be part of efforts to promote an Inclusive Society?

(3) What inspired you to start your blog?

(4) What are the challenges you are facing in promoting your blog?

(5) Do you consider the blog as one of your achievements? If yes, how?

(6) Can blogs help raise resources? How can blogs be sustained over a period of time?

(7) Is blog an effective medium through which you can connect to the persons with disability across the world? If yes, how?

For my answers, I'm going to lump questions (1) and (2) together because I see them as closely related. The blogosphere is exerting significant pressure to move our world in the direction of a more inclusive society because it makes the issues and concerns of all kinds of people much more visible—whether we're talking about disability, or ethnic identity, or religion, or any of the other characteristics that historically have divided people.

The influence of blogs, as I see it, is not so much in the individual voices of their authors, but in the collective pressure toward understanding and acceptance of different cultures and ways of being.

Before the Internet existed, if a person said something ignorant or bigoted to a friend, it probably would go unchallenged because the friend wouldn't know any better either, and that would reinforce the ignorant ideas in both people's minds. Blogs have changed that dynamic completely. Now, if a person makes an ignorant post or comment on a blog, even if the blog usually is read only by a small circle of friends, it's likely that a better informed person will come across it via an Internet search engine and will promptly correct the author. In many cases, the offending remark will end up being posted on another blog (or perhaps a forum) as an example of ignorant prejudice, and large numbers of readers will flame the author mercilessly. In this way, the blogosphere has created a huge amount of social pressure toward acceptance of diversity.

Granted, some of the people who are becoming more respectful toward minority groups in their blogs are just doing it to avoid the unpleasant social consequences of being identified as a bigot on the Internet; but, like tattoos and cosmetic surgery, even though they're just doing it to follow the prevailing fashion, the changes are likely to be permanent.

(3) I started my blog out of frustration at seeing autistic people who meekly accepted the stereotypes about autism and believed themselves to be mentally inferior. I thought they needed a good virtual kick in the pants to motivate them to get some self-respect, and I posted a lot of sarcastic rants. Since then, I have broadened my perspective and started writing more about issues of family, community, and social attitudes toward disability and human differences in general.

(4) I really haven't done much to promote my blog, other than joining the Autism Hub, which is a group of autism-related blogs. I've found that just reading and commenting on other people's blogs is an effective way to attract readers, if the comments are sufficiently interesting to get people's attention.

(5) Yes, to the extent that my blog has motivated people to develop a broader and more positive view of human diversity, to be more willing to accept their own differences and those of their family members, to think more about social issues, and to discuss potential ways of dealing with intolerance and other social problems, I consider it an achievement.

(6) Blogs can help raise resources, in terms of both money and information, by letting readers know about worthy charitable causes and by linking to websites that provide useful knowledge on various topics. As for sustaining blogs over a period of time, although this can be difficult when there is only one author who gets busy with other activities, the problem can be overcome by adding more authors to the blog.

(7) Yes, it is an effective medium for connecting to people who have specific interests such as disability rights. If a person wants to find blogs that deal with disability issues, there are many search engines that make it easy to do so.

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  • I do think blogging can help people understand another person's struggles with a disability. Check out my blog at www.marlabaltes.blogspot.com
    I enjoyed this post. Thank you.

    By Blogger Marla , at 5:35 PM  

  • Thanks for terrific answers to our survey. we request visitors visiting your blog and reading the post to answer the questions since we might not have sent the questions to everyone. The more answers we recieve the better for our survey. Thanks once again.

    By Blogger Deepstambha, at 4:24 AM  

  • I have learnt so much from blogs, as i hope others may learn something from mine.
    And i think your blog is great!

    By Blogger Casdok, at 10:55 AM  

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