Disabilinet.com is a social networking service and website launched in June 2012 specifically for disabled people. Based on a similar concept to Facebook, Disabilinet is a fledgling site with 391 active disabled users as of September 2012 sharing information and content regarding experiences, opinions and condition-specific advice across the Internet. The purpose of Disabilinet is however different to Facebook as it has been established so that disabled people can form new friendships as opposed to managing existing relationships online. Unique Users must register before using the site with basic personal details after which they can create a personalised identity that includes an Avatar, personality profile, birthdate and email address for direct, private messages. Once this personal profile is established, subscribers can add other users as friends and begin exchanging messages, pictures, videos, music and blog posts. Additionally, users may set up and join common-interest user groups and add events to a calendar. A HTML5 mobile version of Disabilinet is available for smart phones and tablets with compatibility for devices such as iPhone and iPad.
History and background
The successful entrepreneur Mike Simmonds founded Disabilinet and is based in Whitstable, Kent, (United Kingdom). Mike has extensive experience in the field of mobility products and helping to meet the needs of disabled people. Mike was previously the Managing Director of Q’Straint Europe, a global wheelchair and occupant restraint specialist that supplies safety products to the commercial bus, coach and rail sectors. Whilst at Q’Straint (trading as Giram UK Limited) for 18 years, Mike was responsible for growing the business considerably across 50 countries along with helping to achieve Investors in People and ISO9001 accreditation in 2005, meeting industry demands of European Whole Vehicle Type Approval and The Queen’s Award for Enterprise: International Trade (Export) in 2007. In addition to currently leading the development of Disabilinet and its associated charitable Foundation, Mike is the Managing Director of Disabilinet Technologies Limited and Roxana Investments Limited.
The idea for the Disabilinet platform was the result of Mike’s continuing experiences of meeting inspirational disabled individuals across the world. He researched current online community sites for disabled people and concluded there was a need for a different approach. Hence Disabilinet.com was specifically designed for people with disabilities so they could freely communicate with one another and share experiences in a safe and secure environment. Disabilinet.com is different to social media sites such as Facebook primarily through its content and user base demographics so that relevant news, views and topics relevant to disabled people can be quickly accessed. Disabilinet.com reflects a new genre of social media sites that engage specific interests and defined user groups. Mike discovered that there was a real need to share images, advice and viewpoints as many disabled people found it difficult to discover the best way to improve well-being or access credible information. Whether people have become recently disabled, lived with restricted mobility or had a medical condition such as Spinal Injury, Muscular Dystrophy, Motor Neurone Disease, Cerebal Palsy, Spinal Muscular Atrophy etc. they are now accessing the community site to exchange information.
Mike currently manages a small team of three specialists based internationally who are responsible for programming and maintenance, Public Relations and developing Social Media exposure through the micro-blogging site Twitter and other online sites such as the Disabled Living Foundation Youreable forums. A General Manager will be appointed shortly to direct the website on a part-time basis which is now live and has been designed with web accessibility in mind. It will be rolled out to all counties globally with residents who predominantly speak English with the intention of becoming the first choice online community hub for disabled people around the world.
Disabilinet.com is a content diverse community website which encompasses many different methods by which fellow subscribers can engage. The home page provides quick access to all areas of the website with designated fields which include –
- the most recent YouTube, Hulu and Vimeo video posted by subscribers
- uploaded photographs or links to Flickr,
- the latest general activity on the site such as new member notification and micro blog posts
- blogs and forthcoming events
- access to open forums and designated groups
- current member names and Avatars
- links to the subscribers personal Inbox, friends and settings
- Facebook users who ‘like’ Disabilinet
- The Disabilinews channel from the Disabilinews Reporter
Navigation for visually impaired visitors is assisted by a ‘Size of Character’ option that will increase or reduce the point size of typefaces on the screen. Abundant links allow all content to be commented upon, liked and shared across Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Stumble Upon. In addition to these, Disabilinet allows subscribers to engage via a ‘live chat’ box similar to real-time Skype messaging and fellow members who are online can choose to be highlighted in a ‘Members Online’ window. RSS feeds are also available.
The Disabilinet member, Disabilinews Reporter regularly posts news and events from the mobility and disability sector within a designated channel that is accessed from the main navigation bar. This news stream provides useful mobility product information and initiatives, end user stories and event updates for all Disabilinet subscribers. Techincal support links are available at the foot of the home page and free Disabilinet banners and website badges are available for all subscribers to download and position on external sites.
The Disabilinet Foundation
The Disabilinet Foundation charity has been established following the launch of this associated community social media site with the intention of donating specialist assistance and mobility equipment to disabled individuals. When user numbers hit a critical level, the site will introduce a commercial advertising programme whereby a percentage of revenue generated from promotional banners, skyscrapers, MPUs etc. will be converted into funds to support disabled people.
Current users of Disabilinet as of September 2012 consist of a varied mix of disabled individuals from global locations. Of note in these early stages, there has been an influx of members from the United States with Multiple Sclerosis and many mobility scooter users. In addition to these, certain users in the public eye have joined including Julie Fernandez, the British Actress famed for appearing in The Office UK TV show and publicised Steve Tarrant who survived being hit by an F1 racing car in 2000 at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Steve Tarrant is also famed for successfully achieved a new World Record on 27 June 2012 at The Mobility Roadshow, East of England Showground, Peterborough where he drove a TGA mobility scooter the further distance ever in 24 hours around the Peterborough Panthers Speedway track. This achievement was included in Disabilinews on the Disabilinet website along with his official Olympic and Paralympic 2012 sailing medal bearing duties during August and September at Weymouth.
Other subscribers include the online disabled information service Ask Jules and the charity Transport For All who campaign for improved accessibility for disabled passengers across London.
Disabled social media statistics
Taking the UK for example, the following figures demonstrate why a social media platform specifically for disabled people will be a success. 30% of internet users are aged 55+1, 70% of households have internet access2, 60% of internet surfers access the web daily and of the 8.6 million people registered disabled, 50% of them regularly use the web3. This is combined with the huge following of leading social media sites such as Twitter (3 million ‘Tweets’ per day worldwide, activity currently rising by 2,565%4) and Facebook (500 million unique users worldwide5), which clearly shows the need for Disabilinet.com. There are also new initiatives such as GO ON UK (formerly RaceOnline 2012) supported by British Telecom, Age UK and the Royal Mail that are actively encouraging disabled people who have not used the Internet before to discover the unlimited benefits it can deliver.
Disabilinet is Social Media site – what does this mean?
In essence Social Media is what it says it is – ‘Social’ – informal, consumer chat, and ‘Media’ – a form of communication, in this case via the Internet. In more scientific terms, Andreas Kaplan and Michael Haenlein define Social Media as ‘a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content.’6 Businesses also refer to Social Media as user-generated content (UGC) or consumer-generated media (CGM). The popularity of Social Media is driven by today’s era of the ‘Attention Age’ whereby people post their views, actions or requests without prompting. Social Media can take a variety of different forms which include – Instant messaging, Internet forums, Microblogging, Picture-sharing, Podcasts, Social blogs, Social bookmarking, Virtual communities, Virtual game worlds, Vlogs (video blogging), Weblogs and Wikis. Examples of Microblogging include – FMyLife, Jaiku, Plurk, Tumblr and Twitter, Social bookmarking (or social tagging) – Delicious, Google Reader and StumbleUpon, and Video sharing – Sevenload, Viddler, Vimeo and YouTube. These sites incorporate fluid sharing of messages and images, commonly in real-time across a pre-determined social network and offer the benefits of virality.
Join Disabilinet for free today at: www.disabilinet.com