Are we heroes?

We will share a report that will answer to this simple question: how disabilities in general and disabled young people in particular are represented in social media.

Following a short investigation in existing literature, we set criteria for data gathering and we built a repository of data. In gathering data we have made a distinction between information sites from news agencies and other popular information sites (decentralized media) and expressions of private citizens on blogs, forums and social media groups (e.g. Facebook, Instagram) (social media participation).

An investigation on which are the most used social network used by young adults with disability and for what purpose, was carried on with the aim of identify the main risks and opportunities that people with disability are facing in using social media.

Using existing and self-made media and discourse analysis tools, we investigated recurrent representations of disability and associated attributed values that are present in social media (e.g. disabled people as “heroes”, “victims”, “stupid”, “vulnerable”, “dangerous”, etc.). In the analysis we assess variables related to the type of disability, age, gender, country and media used. We also look into mechanisms of reproduction of those images and whether some representations meet more consensus then others.

The results will be discussed with groups of stakeholders (e.g. disabled people and their organizations, educators and supporters) in Focus groups, in order to see whether the outcomes effectively correspond or not correspond to the perceptions of people.

Next, in a focus group with PwD supporters and professionals, we reflected on the short and possible long term consequences on young adults with and without disabilities of the exposure to the found social media representation of disability.

Finally we will produce a report of the outcomes with recommendations at different levels for policy makers, educators and social media producers.

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