It happened during Hurricane Sandy, when a couple with disabilities used Facebook and other social media to spread the word about why they thought it would be safer to stay in their 12th-floor lower-Manhattan apartment and what supplies they might need.
A Massachusetts blogger spread the word further about the couple; Nick relies on a ventilator, while Alejandra uses a wheelchair. And in the aftermath of the hurricane, traditional broadcast and print media jumped on the story, educating the larger community about the needs and concerns of disabled people during such a natural disaster.
There’s an important lesson to be learned there, that people with disabilities have to get their story out through social media, according to Beth Haller, a Towson University communications professor who’s giving the keynote speech at a conference in Buffalo on Thursday.
The Disability, Education & Advocacy Network of WNY will present “Disability and the Media: A Community Dialogue,” from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday at the UB South Campus and the Museum of disABILITY History.
Haller strongly believes that social media can reinvigorate disability-rights activism.
“Once it’s out there on social media, the traditional media will take notice,” Haller said.
In the case of the Manhattan couple, spreading the word on social media became a win-win situation for them.
“It was a way to get help and raise consciousness about what was going on,” Haller said. “It got the word out about the unique needs of people with disabilities in a natural disaster.”
Haller will give her keynote address at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, in Harriman Hall, on the UB South Campus.
Following a catered lunch, the participants will move to the Museum of disABILITY History, at 3826 Main St., for the afternoon activities.
From 1 to 2:45 p.m., people can choose between two sessions. Haller will continue her discussion about empowering disabled people, while former Buffalo News features editor Susan LoTempio and current News reporter Gene Warner will lead a small-group discussion on using traditional media to get your message out.
The conference will conclude with museum tours starting at 3 p.m.
People can sign up for the conference at www.ubevents.org/event/2013disabilityandmedia.