The communications landscape has changed, and continues to evolve, sometimes at breathtaking pace. No sooner had email arrived than it became the standard written medium for business. Personal email followed swiftly, and the handwritten letter is now an artform. We expect letters to arrive instantly as opposed to over the period of up to a week.
The marvel of the carphone was quickly overtaken by mobile phones for all. GSM messaging revolutionised our interaction and social planning. Social networking began to great suspicion, on PCs. Only the young did it, and the older ones wondered what they were at in there (they still do). Laptops meant you could take it anywhere.
With the proliferation of the smartphone came the crucial crossover of email by phone. Now you were freed from the desk when you needed to be. The very cool among us had Blackberry. For everyone else, the iPhone and Android appeared, and quickly became the platforms of choice.
The effect on paper publications has been seismic – newspapers have had to take some unsavoury medicine, but we are seeing their online response now, and the signs are encouraging for the industry of the written word. Even your quarterly edition of Frontline has taken to the online world! And the changes for us and our readership are already visible.
The key innovation for social networking was the phone camera. Facebook, particularly for phone, could now put a face to the name of every keyboard jockey on the planet, Twitter allowed the very brave to give vent to whatever thought hit you in that moment, and our celebrities were on it within an ad-break. We followed dutifully, the phone became almost a part of our hand, and the social networks were suddenly front-and-centre of everything we do.
People with intellectual disabilities are making their own use of this electronic revolution. Now friends, family, service staff – all of our important people are within reach. Self-expression is everywhere, and it has opened up a world of excitement and inclusion previously available only to a smaller section of society. In her latest Frontline column, Mei Lin Yap embraces social networking, and details her favourites, giving us the basics of how to make the best of them.
Not everyone with an intellectual disability has taken up the new opportunities on offer from social networks, however. As with everyone else, some fear it, some are merely suspicious – Adrian Noonan, in his first contribution to Frontline, details its advantages for self-advocacy groups, while he sounds a timely warning to help new users to navigate the uncharted waters of the social networks. Also, Deirdre Spain shows how she can get the best out of her online experience on the move.
Elsewhere in this issue, Clare Hudson takes a critical look at devices and applications that can assist and develop technology skills for people with disabilities; Kate Butler of the excellent Thundercut Alley highlights the problems of systemic discrimination for people with disabilities; Sara Porzio questions the existence of equality in health and education services for her daughter; Fiona Murphy raise the difficulties with consideration of people with disabilities in the courts, and Shane Kilcommins of UL examines access to justice for crime victims with disabilities.
Regardless of your experience, the impact of social networks is to be seen everywhere, and its potential for change in so many lives, at every end of society, is undeniable.