THE ROLLING REVIEWER: A NEW SOCIAL BUTTERFLY TAKES FLIGHT

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Our Guide to the Best Disability-Based Websites on the Net

By Janelle Eckardt

 

May 1, 2009 (San Diego’s East County)--The concept of having a “social life” doesn’t exactly mean the same thing it did twenty, ten, or even five years ago. Interfacing with family and friends seldom actually involves meeting face-to-face, and meeting someone new is only one click away. Chat room chat-ups and instant messaging marathons have, whether or not many of us would like to admit it, become integral elements to our link to the world around us.

 

This month, I’m celebrating some of the best disability-based websites I’ve found for learning, socializing, and sharing. Here are some of the sites I return to again and again – whether I’m looking for wheelchair-friendly travel ideas or a reason to laugh, these sites never disappoint.

 

Disaboom.com is a comprehensive resource for everything disability-related. The site was spearheaded by Dr. J. Glen House (no relation to our favorite fictional cane-wielding Dr. Gregory House, I’m sorry to report), who specializes in physical and rehabilitation medicine. Dr. House is a quadriplegic, and was inspired to create the first “comprehensive, evolving source of information, insight, and personal engagement for the disability community.” Boasting a social network of 180 million strong, Disaboom is connecting people across the country, and world, through its intelligent and thoughtful insight into various subjects.

 

The site is separated into seven main areas of interest: Health, Living, Community, Video, Marketplace, Resources, and Jobs. Visitors may also research particular conditions and diseases through the alphabetically organized medical glossary. “Healthy Living” articles include ones that address physical fitness and sports, relaxation, medication, and stress. The area that I visit most often is the “Living” section – articles touch on subjects ranging from lifestyle, education, advocacy and politics to entertainment and relationships. For anyone interested in connecting with others sharing similar unique circumstances, Disaboom’s community blog section might just be the perfect place to start. Participants may share photos through a personal gallery, and maintain a blog for others to read. No matter what you’re looking for, Disaboom is here to point you in the right direction.

 

Sometimes we have to look beyond our borders to find what we need right here at home. Jet-lagged by so many stateside resources that seemed so pathetically devoid of humor and sincerity, I cast my cyber sights across the pond. The BBC answered the call for smart talk on disability by creating “OUCH!”. With the motto of “It’s a disability thing!” you might suspect that to understand the perspective of this site is to be in on the joke, and you’d be right. Political correctness and politics aside, many people versed in the art of living with disability are quick to point out its funny side. After all, like the fine OUCH! folk say, “Disabled people are uniquely placed to see some of the stupidest things around.” Cheers to that understatement! Nothing is off the table in the articles, blogs, podcasts, message boards, opinion pieces, art, and other features; some subjects are UK and Europe-specific, but all are insightful.

 

Peruse message boards like the fully-accessible cyber pub, “Cane and Able”; check out the latest news updates on everything from stem cell research to GPS-guided guide dogs; get a chuckle from Andre Jordan’s most recent “Motley Zoo” doodles of less-than-abled animal friends; then move on to some hard-core humor. One particularly witty, wicked, and undeniably brilliant columnist is known as Disability Bitch. Each week this battle-ready cynic calls out a new opponent to drive into the ground – DB hates everything indiscriminately. In one of her most recent columns, DB is in attack mode over TV Talent Shows. Simon Cowell couldn’t fool her with his dow-eyed expression and seeming loss for words over Britain’s Got Talent Contestant Susan Boyle’s obvious singing gift. While DB gives due props to Ms. Boyle, she isn’t so forgiving of the media’s patronizing attitudes – DB poses two questions many disabled people have asked themselves: “Why are people so astonished when they discover either that 1) a disabled person is actually talented; or 2) a talented person is actually disabled?” Fortunately for all, DB has a solution for every issue she faces. If people enjoy watching handicapped folk so much, then we can use it to our advantage by taking the global stage and bombarding televised talent shows everywhere. Sign me up!

 

Another helpful link is disabled-world.com. While the name may force you to wonder if the planet experienced some sort of massive power failure, I promise the website’s content steers clear of any apocalyptic rants. Disabled-World has similar features as Disaboom, but with the added benefit of providing an updated glossary of other disability-centric sites. Listed social-networking links include ones that focus on everything from Parkinson’s Disease support groups to accessible websites for the deaf community. Check it out and see where it takes you.

 

The name of the next resource I mention may clue you into a theme that might be developing – Disability World is an international online magazine that is “dedicated to advancing an exchange of information and expertise about the international independent living movement of people with disabilities.” Articles range from the political and economic to the arts and humanities. Film-buffs might enjoy learning about the disability piece, “Breaking Down Barriers,” that stole the show at the Moscow Film Festival. Read a couple of these intriguing articles, and stock up on interesting conversation starters for your next social event.

 

Being social is crucial in all its many forms. No matter if you’re looking to make new friends, find information on a condition or disease, or just hoping for a place to vent; the right forum for you can be found online.

 

http://ilivewithadisability.com/ 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/ouch/ (Ouch!)

http://www.disabled-world.com/ (Disabled World)

http://www.disabilityworld.org/ (Disability World)

 

Janelle graduated from UCSD with a BA degree in English literature, in 2007. After gaining a spot in a competitive 12-week internship, she was hired as a writer and editor for a popular national restaurant review and reservation company. Hazards of the job include public displays of salivation over the countless mouth-watering dishes she is forced to describe, and the occasional threat of death-by-overeating. Janelle is a native of this most beautiful of counties, and is absolutely bent on showing it off to the world: bumpy sidewalks and all. And if she knows anything, it is this: bucket lists are for procrastinators–live as though you are … living.