For the average social media user, it’s no longer a surprise to hear that Facebook has yet again updated its terms and condition updates to allow it to own more of our personal information and photos in its ploy to take over the world.
While most of these updates are designed to gather increased amounts of user information in order to sell us relevant ads, privacy remains a fundamental issue for consumers on social platforms. After all, we’re talking about a service where the default privacy settings provides the business permission to use any intellectual property uploaded in almost any capacity.
For the disabled community, social platforms such as Facebook pose additional privacy and accessibility complications that can make the service difficult or unpleasant to use, particularly when bullying and harassment are a realistic occurrence.
Tackling these issues by providing an exclusive social space for people with disabilities is MyDisabilityMatters.
The social media platform, launched by Dale Reardon, aims to service the disabled community by providing users with a private, comfortable location to engage in discussions, find carers or business services dealing with disabilities, and meet other members.
Family and friends are also welcome to join the site, as each user is able to create their own profile page in a process that Reardon likens to Facebook. The user has to fill out a registration form that requests a minimal amount of information before moving onto an email-based on-boarding process that guides them through setting up their profile and basic operations including using the posting forum, joining groups, and private messaging.
“Users can respond to posts on the forum via email, so they’re not forced to go back to the site since some disabled users have trouble navigating cluttered web pages,” Reardon explained.
Having heard the frustrations disabled people were experiencing with mainstream social media platforms, Reardon sought to create a service that mirrored the functionality of Facebook while offering easier accessibility and tighter privacy in order to protect the user.
“I personally am visioned impaired and have tremendous problems, like so many other blind people, using Facebook. They employ an accessibility person but they just don’t take it very seriously and it’s still really hard to use,” Reardon said.
The entrepreneur identified cyber bullying as another major issue that the disabled community faces on social platforms, particularly when the disability informs a physical impairment that other users can visualise in profile pictures. Facebook in particular has a poor track record of upholding respect and tolerance, according to Reardon.
To combat these issues, MyDisabilityMatters is founded on a community pledge to promote respect. While the startup’s current model doesn’t feature employed moderators to deal with cyberbullying reports, any flagged user will be subject to a fair investigation process that will examine both sides of the issue before action is taken.
From the back end, the site is designed with a simplistic, easy to navigate layout to improve accessibility for disabled users.
Since ensuring privacy is key to the startup’s aim, the platform has strict limitations to what the public can view.
“While some of the forum content is available to the public, most requires you to sign up to see it,” said Reardon.
This concept also applies to user profiles and group pages in order to ensure information is kept private, all without the usual tyrannical terms and conditions that claim ownership over a user’s IP.
While the social startup for the disabled community is barely a week old, Reardon is not a new face to the entrepreneurship sphere. It was in only April this year that the founder launched an online platform for disabled news after being accepted into the Macquarie Kickstarter program held by The School for Social Entrepreneurs.
“It was this process that broadened our horizons about how big we could make the project. We came up with the idea for the social media side from that, since we wanted to add on extra social media networking to the news site,” Reardon explained.
Now attached to the news site, the social platform launched with the help of Reardon’s wife, who handled the design.
Currently the startup is running without any investment, although Reardon said his currently in talks with angel investors. There are other entrepreneur programs the business will look towards, including the second round of the Queensland Hot DesQ program.
Reardon is also considering various business models, though the startup isn’t completely without a source of revenue; the online news and social platforms feature a WeCommerce plugin to take donations. Businesses are also charged a small fee to join the social platform, while membership for individual users remains free.
Reardon said additional funding will contribute to building extra features for the site; a potential feature the startup could explore is an audio function to help those who are vision impaired browse the platform. Funding would also go towards marketing to help increase visibility.
With over 120 users already signed up, Reardon is confident the platform has the potential to grow and would like to see user numbers reach tens of thousands over the next year.
“It offers great accessibility and greater ease of use that will attract the disabled community.”
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