Twitter can lend a ‘voice’ to the speechless

Sydney, Aug 24 (IANS) Australian researchers have revealed how micro-blogging website Twitter can help people who have experienced strokes, cerebral palsy, autism, motor neurone disease and traumatic brain injury to find a “voice”.

The initial findings indicate that Twitter can help people with communication disabilities share information and feel more included.

“We are seeing that Twitter can not only provide a ‘voice’ for people with communication disabilities, but also an ‘audience’ – and this helps them to feel empowered and in control of their own lives,” explained lead researcher and speech pathologist Bronwyn Hemsley from University of Newcastle.

According to researchers, many people with communication disabilities who use assistive technologies already knew how to make their communication short and succinct and, therefore, tended to flourish on Twitter.

Often, people with little or no functional speech find that listeners try to finish their sentences for them or speak on their behalf.

“They are used to crafting short messages carefully. Where other users might be at a disadvantage by 140 character limits, people who struggle to speak might have had lifelong practice in making every word count,” Hemsley said in a university statement.

In many ways, Twitter might level the playing field, liberating users from stereotypes and enabling self-advocacy, she noted.

The research team will soon embark on the second phase of the three-year project to investigate the benefits of online Twitter training, how networks develop and how people with communication disabilities experience Twitter over a six month period.

The further research will involve adults with cerebral palsy, stroke, autism, motor neurone disease or traumatic brain injury.

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