Skip to main content

Social Constructions of Disability: Digital and Internet Technologies

  • Synopsis: Published: 2012-08-16 - Over the last several decades the digital revolution has transformed networks services and communications technique for persons with disability - Wendy Taormina-Weiss.

Main Document

The world today still finds many people viewing those who experience forms of disabilities in ways that are incorrect or misconceived. For example, some people still view the experience of a disability as the person's entire life instead of something that is located within their body or mind and merely a part of who they are. Social constructions identifying people with disabilities with the diagnosis they have received from a physician such as autism, intellectual disability, cognitive disorders, or many other forms of disabilities identified through use of medical terminology are still used to label and somehow construct the entire perceptions of some in association with a person who experiences a disability.

The result is a reduction in the humanity of the person with a disability due to sole identification with the person's medical diagnosis. As an example, my husband has epilepsy and there are those in the world today who would still refer to him as an, 'epileptic,' as their sole means of identifying him - completely ignoring everything else he has accomplished or anything else he is. The same people would not hesitate to refer to others with disabilities as, 'Autistic,' or, 'Diabetic,' without hesitation, again ignoring anything and everything else a person may be.

The process of labeling people with disabilities applies in the minds of some in society even when the person who experiences a disability is very young. People in society who label others often do not hesitate to apply medical labels to children with disabilities as well. One of the important aspects of social constructs and perceptions is the interpretation of another person's intentions.

Children who experience forms of intellectual disabilities can have trouble with interpreting benign intentions when a negative event happens, for example. From a cognitive perspective, interpreting benign intentions can be a challenge for them because it requires the integration of conflicting information. Social cues that accompany a negative event can convey non-hostile intentions. The result can be a child with an intellectual disability who is unable to interpret the difference between a person who is negatively labeling them, and a person who means well towards them - ending up with difficulties understanding interactions with others in general.

The Digital and Internet World and People with Disabilities

The media in the world today is different than it has been in the past in relation to people with disabilities. The social constructions associated with us are changing. Interactive digital communications such as the Internet finds new varieties of text and voice telephones as well as digital broadcasting available. The digital world has created a need for a greater understanding of new types of media and issues related to people with disabilities. We are now being presented through particular venues as consumers, users, listeners, and viewers of a wide-range of types of media. We are also being presented as policymakers, programmers, and members of corporations.

Over the last several decades, the digital revolution has transformed networks, services, and communications techniques. It has also promoted a convergence of telecommunications, computer use, publishing and broadcasting. The digital revolution has changed the ways people work, learn, interact and play. Services and products based on digital components are to be found in consumer products and communication infrastructures in every nation around the world.

What does this mean? People are increasingly using computers, cell phones, and other types of technologies to interact with one-another. It is increasingly likely that you are interacting with others and finding that you are not face-to-face with the person you are interacting with. Whether you are using email, playing a game through a social networking site, interacting with a fellow employee through a web conference, or using a cell phone to speak to another person - you are not physically present in front of the other person.

In the European Union alone there are millions of people who experience a form of disability who use telecommunications technologies. It is no longer possible to point and say, 'That person has a form of disability,' when you interact with someone else through telecommunications, for example. What follows are some of the numbers of people with disabilities in just the European Union who use telecommunications:

  • Deaf: 2 Million
  • Blind: 1 Million
  • Weak Grip: 7 Million
  • Deaf blind: 0.2 Million
  • Hand Tremor: 7 Million
  • Limited Dexterity: 7 Million
  • Cognitive Impairment: 9 Million
  • Vision Impairment, severe: 2 Million
  • Limited use of Hands/Arms: 5 Million
  • Speech Impairment, severe: 2 Million
  • Hearing Impairment, severe: 4 Million
  • Vision Impairment, moderate: 3 Million
  • Speech Impairment, moderate: 3 Million
  • Restricted Mobility, lower limb: 22 Million
  • Hearing Impairment, moderate: 16 Million

Be Kind, or be Left Behind

When you interact with another person; whether it is through an online game, a social networking site, through a web conference, cell phone, email, or another form of digital technology - you must take into consideration the possibility that the person you are interacting with experiences a form of disability. These types of technologies are helping to transform the way people in general perceive people with disabilities. The social constructs of disability are changing through the Internet and digital technologies.

It does not matter whether the person you are interacting with is a child, a teenager, or an adult - if you are interacting with another person through digital technology you have to take into consideration the possibility that the person may have a form of disability. People who are rude, inconsiderate, or negatively label others who experience a form of disability through these forms of technologies or the Internet may be making enemies. The result can be the loss of a job, a friendship, or worse.

As humanity progresses towards the future, digital and Internet technologies will play large roles in how we interact with each other. The old and tired practice on the part of some in society who label people with disabilities in negative ways will find those people falling out of favor with an increasing number of others in society. The statement of, 'Be kind to your neighbor,' has never been truer than it is today, even if your neighbor is a thousand miles away and you are interacting with them through the Internet or a cell phone.

Disability Online Resource Center
www.disability-online.com/

"Disability Online offers a comprehensive resource center for all disability related resources, topics and services."

Disability Resources
www.disabilityresources.org/

"Disability Resources, inc. is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization established to promote and improve awareness, availability and accessibility of information that can help people with disabilities live, learn, love, work and play independently."

Social Construction of Disability
www.unm.edu/~devalenz/511/511home.html

"In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true."

Related Information:

  1. Disability Etiquette and Awareness - Disability Etiquette and Awareness refers to educating people regarding disabilities and terminology or languages.
  2. Wheelchair Etiquette - Disability Awareness - Explains the rules of etiquette when talking with a person in a wheelchair and people using guide dogs.
  3. Invisible Disability and Etiquette - Information regarding etiquette and manners when referring to or relating to persons with invisible disabilities.


Information from our Editorials: Disability & Health Technology section - (Full List).

Submit event details, disability news, and assistive technology products for publishing on Disabled World


Loan Information for low income singles, families, seniors and disabled. Includes home, vehicle and personal loans.


Famous People with Disabilities - Well known people with disabilities and conditions who contributed to society.


List of awareness ribbon colors and their meaning. Also see our calendar of awareness dates.


Blood Pressure Chart - What should your blood pressure be. Also see information on blood group types and compatibility.



  1. Majority in Favor of Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) Screening
  2. When the Spinal Cord Takes Charge of Information Related to Movement
  3. Sign Language Comparative List of Astronomical Words
  4. Israeli President Honors Special Education Teachers




Citation



Errors: Disabled World is an independent website, your assistance in reporting outdated or inaccurate information is appreciated. If you find an error please let us know.

Disclaimer: Content on Disabled World is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. See our Terms of Service for more information.