From what I understand, autism is a poorly understood disease. Thank you to Heather Bing, author of Experience PR, who brought to my attention a disorder that affects over 600,000 adults in the U.S.
After reading an article on CNN, I have been inspired by Amanda Baggs, a 26-year-old woman living with autism. Amanda does not speak, but she communicates with others through videos on youtube. Dr. Sanjay Gutpa, medical correspondent and author of Paging Dr. Gutpa , said Amanda is intelligent. Adults with autism are neglected and sometimes thought of as mentally retarded, but that is far from true.
After Dr. Gutpa’s Blog entry, approximately 200 comments from the public appeared. People had questions for Amanda, and some wanted Dr. Gutpa’s advice for their children about autism. CNN also provided a Q & A for Amanda and others to interact via Web.
The Internet seems as though it has evolved into a tool that we cannot live without. We e-mail, network, shop and communicate all the time on the Internet. It seems there are no limitations to using the Internet–or are there?
I read an article in one of my public relations classes from Webaim. It stated that the importance of targeting Web sites to the disabled is highly unrealized. There are a lot of them out there. It startles me to think that some of us out there are not using something I feel I cannot live without.
Slowly, Amanda has learned how to type and rely on a voice synthesizer. She is fully aware of the world around her, and through the Internet, Amanda is able to communicate with others. She has interacted with doctors who say they have learned a lot from Amanda.
I think there is a lesson to be learned from Amanda’s story. While organizations and companies out there are thinking about innovative ways to target their existing audiences, they should be thinking about people like Amanda and others who suffer from disabilities. I don’t see many Web sites targeted to the blind, or even the deaf for that matter. Why should they be left out? If Amanda can teach an M.D. a thing or two, so can the rest of disabled people.
Autism and Web sites for the disabled are highly unrecognized. Maybe those with autism not communicating will soon be able to like Amanda and teach the world a thing or two about this disease. In the future, maybe autism won’t be so much as a mystery. Why? Because of the Internet, because it is still evolving, because it can help those who cannot communicate through words interact with the rest of the world.