Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Disaboom strives to be online social community for people with disabilities

Q: What would you get if you crossed a multi-faceted web site targeting the disabled community with a focus on the coming impact of the Baby Boom” generation?

A: Well, you’d get,
Of course.

Here’s what the site’s “Overview” page says:
“Disaboom, Inc. was founded to develop the first interactive online community dedicated to constantly improving the way people with disabilities or functional limitations live their lives. It will also serve as a comprehensive online resource not only for people living with such conditions, but also their immediate families and friends, caregivers, recreation and rehabilitation providers, and employers. There are more than 100 million adults worldwide living with disabilities or functional limitations today. Founded and designed by doctors and fellow Disaboomers to meet this untapped market’s specific needs, will bring together content and tools ranging from specialized health information to social networking to daily living resources, in a single interactive site.”

The team behind this fresh, new site, launched just last month, seems to have done a good bit of homework in preparing the site for its debut. There are social networking aspects, similar to those found on MySpace and FaceBook, but there are other tools, which are more directly tailored to fit the needs of the direct community the site is aimed at, those with disabilities. The site offers blogs and video hosting to registered users, just like the two social networking giants, but adds some things that they don’t have.

First, there is the focused news on the disability front. Secondly, there are groups and forums with participation of medical professionals. And, finally, there is a review section that is a uniquely qualified offering for this audience. In that section, members can, not only read member reviews of the accessibility of retail businesses, hotels, and restaurants, but they can also write their own. Being that the site is directed at people with all disabilities, and not just looking at one segment of the disabled population, this offers wheelchair users and guide dog users alike a forum to share both good and bad experiences with business establishments. Hopefully, they will post good ones, as those are just as useful as tipping others off about businesses to avoid.

I’d like to share a personal comment about the web site. While I like the approach of aiming towards an audience cutting across all types of disabilities, doing so means that there is the potential to overlook some details. In that sense, I feel that that the developers have missed a step concerning the accessibility of their web site by visually impaired people who use screen readers. The site incorporates Flash animation and, it does not appear that they have taken the steps to make their Flash content accessible. As I’ve written about previously, Flash does not play nice with screen readers like JAWS, but it can be made to work. However, the developers must create their content with that aspect in mind. As the page is constructed at present, it takes some extra effort to navigate the home page due to the inaccessible Flash. To me, this is a glaring oversight when you are directing your site towards people with disabilities.

However, I am optimistic and feel that the developers at this fresh upstart will address those concerns once made aware of them.

I spent a good bit of time last night looking over the site and must say that I’m pretty excited about what this could grow into. It is a very promising venture that has a large upside. Now, I’m off to go set up my Disaboom membership to check it out in even more depth.


Karen said...

I hope you emailed the site owners and let them know. Feedback like this will improve Disaboom. :)

Ron Graham said...

Hi Karen,

The greatest thing is that I did not have to email the site owners, they emailed me within 24 hours of writing that post. Actually, Glen House, one of the founders of the innovative site, emailed me. He said they are aware of the accessibility problems and that they are working on resolving these.

Congratulations on your being asked to write on the Disaboom site.

Also, I have just finished looking over your blog and like your style. I’d like to add you to my blogroll, if that’s all right with you.


Erik said...

You really came across a gem. Disaboom is such a terrific site that they are always improving! It's an online community/networking platform providing forums, employment section, and a wealth of resources. It's not just beneficial to persons with disabilities, but also to friends, families, and caretakers. There really is information that everyone can learn from. Thanks Disaboom!