[REPORT] Social Media as a Tool for Inclusion
Date Created: November 6, 2012  Date Modified: November 19, 2012

I was quite interested in this report by the Canadian Human Resources and Skills Development Canada; Social Media as a Tool for Inclusion. I have looked into some of the issues around special-needs users of the internet, and have dealt with web accessibility in the front lines, but what piked my interest in this report was that it covered two demographics often overlooked–Indigenous and the homeless.

The objectives of the study were to determine the extent, nature and benefits of social media use by five vulnerable populations – Aboriginal peoples, people with disabilities, recent immigrants, the homeless and seniors – and by the institutions that serve them, and to explore the extent to which such media help to overcome social isolation and barriers to inclusion

The homeless are often an invisible demographic, and in a traditional web1.0 paradigm the notion of sitting down to a desktop computer to surf the internet is not seen as in the capacity for the homeless, however the more the net has moved onto devices the more uptake and more visible this demographic will be. The digital divide persists, but the advances of technology are making it easier for users with limited means to be able to access the digital realm.

…given the dire daily challenges of the homeless and those that serve them. It is surprising that no pertinent Canadian academic studies on this topic were unearthed, online or otherwise, during the course of this research. Nevertheless, anecdotal reporting indicates that the internet and social media are extensively used by the homeless, especially those under 30, and this finding resonates with those of several U.S. studies on the topic

Having dealt with homelessness first hand, I knew from my own experiences what benefits I gained from the use of social media–in fact the catalyst for me to create a Facebook account back in 2007 was part of a need to reconnect with those who I had lost contact with during my diaspora.Having dealt with homelessness first hand, I knew from my own experiences what benefits I gained from the use of social media–in fact the catalyst for me to create a Facebook account back in 2007 was part of a need to reconnect with those who I had lost contact with during my diaspora.

The number one issue for homeless people is loneliness; many have left behind them a trail of lost or damaged relationships. Facebook is seen to help the homeless regain contact with family members and actually help them rebuild relationships. A youth worker writes: “I frequently use Facebook as a means of staying in touch with youth who are homeless. They are often without a regular phone or address, but will find a way to update their Facebook status. This way I can continue to support them wherever they are at.”

UPDATE: If you are homeless in Western Australia, the Department of Housing have a homeless assistance hotline you can call: 1800 065 892 for help and assistance.

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