Four ways to improve communication about disability

By JoLynne Lyon
Public Relations Specialist at the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University

To my fellow information sharers in the disability field: Has this happened to you?

  • You run into a powerful piece of writing about a disability issue in a paper newsletter. You want to share what you just read—maybe tweet it or post it to your Facebook page. You search for an online version but don’t find it—or after a determined search you do find it, buried on page 55 of a sprawling pdf document. It isn’t indexed. Or…
  • A group you partner with is putting on an event or looking for job applicants. They pass their information on to you by email. They have a website, but the story they just asked you to promote isn’t on it. Or…
  • You write an article on a disability issue for your own blog or website. When you search your stock photo service for an illustration, you find only variations on this theme:

These are all communications failures—and the disability community deserves better.

Why does it matter?

Because people could use this stuff. Caregivers looking for advice as they provide for their loved ones. People searching for jobs. Professionals on the front lines, providing services to their neighbors with disabilities. Folks who aren’t on your listserv.

And because the public deserves a better image of disability than an empty wheelchair.

So what can we do about it? I have some suggestions:

1. Make it share-able.
If you send information to people outside your organization in an email, consider posting it to your blog as well. Add some share buttons that allow readers to pass your story along via Facebook, Twitter or any other network your readers are likely to hang out on. Your friends will be more likely to pass your message along if they can do it with just a click.

2. Keep a camera and a stack of photo consent forms handy.
A relevant picture will make the events and concepts you write about more real, but chances are you won’t find what you’re looking for in a stock image.


3. Be familiar with social networks.
You don’t have to spend all day on them, just understand what they do and how they work. Then, when you find information worth passing on, please do! And finally…

4. Make it accessible.
If it’s our job to share information about disability, we need to set the example and ensure our content can be read by everyone. One of my favorite resources is the Web Accessibility Evaluation (WAVE) tool. It’s free: just plug in a url and it will automatically scan for accessibility issues and alert you when it finds a problem.

Now it’s your turn. What are some other ways we can improve communication in the disability field?

One Response

  1. [...] Four ways to improve communication about disability [...]

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