For some, the 140 character limit on Twitter makes it difficult to express a thought but a group of researchers from Australia said that this can actually help people who have communication disabilities.
For their study, Bronwyn Hemsley, from the University of Newcastle, and colleagues involved people who suffered from motor neuron disease, autism, cerebral palsy, stroke, and traumatic brain injury to investigate how the social network can help people with such disabilities and conditions.
The researchers found that Twitter helps people who have difficulty communicating by speech and that these individuals have positive experiences with the micro-blogging site in a number of ways. Findings of the research suggest that Twitter can help individuals with speech disabilities share information. It can also make them feel more included.
Hemsley said that many of those who already use assistive technologies are already good at making their communication short and succinct, which makes them likely to flourish on the micro-blogging site.
People who have little or no functional speech tend to find that listeners attempt to speak on their behalf or finish the sentence for them, but Hemsley said that Twitter could level the playing field.
"We are seeing that Twitter can not only provide a 'voice' for people with communication disabilities, but also an 'audience' - and this helps them to feel empowered and in control of their own lives," Hemsley said. "In many ways, Twitter might level the playing field, liberating users from stereotypes and enabling self-advocacy."
The researcher said that while some users might be disadvantaged by Twitter's character limit, people who struggle with speech have long known how to make every word count. For these individuals, expressing themselves in just a few words is not a problem as they are already used to expressing themselves in just a few words.
"I think it is more that now people can put their typing skills to use in public where before they might have relied on one to one communication. Somebody now who does have a communication device and access to the internet can also communicate with a lot more people," Hemsley said.
The researchers will conduct a second phase of the study that would investigate the benefits on online Twitter training, how people with speech disabilities experience the microblogging site over a period of six months and how network develops.
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