Going through life alone, regardless of ability, is isolating. Sure, you may have friends and family who care for you, but they don’t understand what you’re dealing with. And it’s nobody’s fault, they just can’t relate. But not having that connection, especially one that impacts your entire life, can make it harder on the relationship in general. This is more straining if there’s nobody in your life to relate to on that level. Up until recently, if there wasn’t someone living near you who could relate to having a disability, you were out of luck. However, Facebook has changed that for many people in the disability community.
Enter the internet. Chatrooms, forums, and now Facebook groups allow people to find others like them all around the world. There are groups about living with a specific disability, being a new wheelchair user, and even dating while disabled. Groups for parents, groups that are just for those with the disability, and groups where they co-mingle. I can all but guarantee you that if you’re looking for a group with similar life experiences, you’ll find it on Facebook. I can’t begin to tell you how much of a game-changer these groups have been for me. I’m still going to try, though, otherwise this would be a very short blog post.
I joined my first group sometime in 2012, shortly after starting university. I was on my own for the first time, and had a bunch of new disability-related issues. In addition to all this, I suddenly had a team of PCAs to manage. They weren’t with me all the time, like my parents were in high school. Then on top of that I had to deal with university. Quite frankly it was overwhelming. A friend from MDA summer camp invited me to a new Facebook group that was meant to be for people living with MD (Muscular Dystrophy), and I quickly jumped on it.
This one small act from a person I only talked with one week a year, and hadn’t for a few years, changed my life. Because of this group, I’ve become more confident in who I am as a person. My ideas about disability in general, not just MD, have changed drastically. It’s fair to say that I’m a better human because of these people. We share ideas, celebrate accomplishments, and bounce ideas off of eachother. I’ve joined other disability-related groups, not just limited to my disability. I may not know each person in person (There’s over 2,000 of us now) but I feel a kinship with everyone there.
Wealth of Information
Okay, enough of the sappy. Let’s get into how exactly these Facebook groups have changed lives. Possibly the biggest way is that these groups are a big think tank. There is someone in one of these groups who has been through what you’re going through. They might have advice. Whether it be which wheelchair to get next, the best way to ask for insurance’s help, or even medication side effects, your chances of finding answers are pretty good. Heck, I’ve gotten help on several articles here from various groups, because I don’t share certain experiences.
The nice part about these groups is that it happens in real time. If you’re looking for quick answers, your group has your back. Granted, this is more true for larger groups, but even small groups (from my experience) have relatively quick response times. People naturally want to help each other, and having the common ground amplifies this.
It’s a Community, not Just an Advice Box
Sometimes you don’t need help. Sometimes, I’ve found a life-hack or something funny happens related to my disability. My first thought is always “Oh, I’ve got to share this with my group!” We have running jokes, we check up on eachother, and we become friends. Heck, I have a job because of these groups! What started out as a small act of kindness has changed my entire worldview. I’ve joined groups about disability activism and learned about disabilities other than mine. I honestly don’t know where I’d be without these groups.
In closing, these groups have a huge impact on the lives of disabled people. They are a wealth of information and offer quick responses as well as community. I can’t speak for every group because I’m not in every group, but the ones I’m in have been nothing short of wonderful. And if you’re reading this and are part of a disability-centric Facebook group, thank you. Thank you from me, for helping others with your disability and keeping the community going.