Social media truly levels the playing field

If you can’t see this video, click here: Anne Reuss on social media and accessibility.

Stop what you’re doing and watch this short video. In under two minutes, you will receive a very powerful message.

When I first connected with Anne Reuss on Twitter, of course I didn’t know she was deaf.  But I did notice that she was looking for a job, so I did what I could to help her.  Connecting Anne to my friend Sean McGinnis led to her first big social media networking event in Chicago.  She later told me that she was nervous about being deaf at a business event like this but felt immediately comfortable when she realized that everybody had their head down, communicating to each other through Twitter!  Twitter. The great equalizer!

For Anne, and many with disabilities, social media has become an amazing connection point. And ever since I was introduced to Anne, I have been trying to see the social media world through the eyes (and ears) of the disabled … How would this work for a deaf person? A blind person? Not always easy.

“I’m working in Social Media because being deaf is not detrimental in the wide world of the web,” Anne said. “I’m madly driven and focused despite what may be noisy settings for other people!”

I invited Anne to make this video for you so you will begin to think about accessibility issues too. She put a lot of work into making this video for {grow}. Please tell her what you think in the comment section.

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  • Such an inspirational topic of discussion. Social Media …. Accessibility  🙂

  • Brilliant Anne! What’s most interesting to me is that you’ve actually identified the key thing about Social Media for everyone; accessibility. And I really liked your analogies to “Word of Eye” and “Word of Hand” versus “Word of Mouth”.  Although some of that may shift back as online video becomes more prevalent, it’s still a huge point for Social Media marketers and users in general to consider. The impact of this perspectve is actually quite profound when one thinks through the ramifications.  I’ll leave that one for Mark for another blog post sometime.

    For sure, there is an “eye opening” lesson you have shared here.  One that only you would initially “hear”.  I’ve been fortunate to have worked with many people who’ve had various disabilities.  The one resounding thing I’ve learned from them (and you’ve proven it again) is that other senses tend to be “sharper” to make up for the loss and from that “sharpness” can come incredible perspective about things that those with all senses never realized.

    Thanks for this Anne!

  • Fantastic Anne, you’ve made the point so well. Thank you for that. It is so nice to come to the screen and see something that makes me think , to ponder and to determine to take action.

    As far as the (dare I say it?) nut cases (yep, I dare) in Washington, I agree! The slippery slope — the slide, they are approaching causes my gut to tighten and my eyes to cross.

    And, as for your take on social media — thank you. I needed that reminder. Even though we have two family members who are deaf I sometimes forget to take advantage of their unique perspectives.

  • Anne, thank you for teaching me to think in a new way today. I love the idea of social media as a conduit for accessibility! Imagine how much more we can learn as more and more individuals are able to participate in our conversations with ease.

    I hope you’ve discovered a rewarding professional path. You communicate beautifully!

  • Good point on new ways of marketing and “background noise”

  • Hi Mark,

    I have written about this a few times on my blog, but social media for me has been a great opportunity to let people meet my brain before seeing me first as a little person. As hard as it is to believe in these modern times, people still tend to make blink reactions when they see me. I am still handed kid menus, yada yada yada. Social Media has given me the opportunity to prove that I actually am an adult and that there is more to me than whatever might make you judge me on the outside. To be transparent, I guess, I don’t hide the fact that I am shorter than the average bear, but it is so luxurious to be in a place where that is NOT the first thing people notice about me.

    Thanks for writing this post:)

  • Social media does indeed level the playing field from a number of standpoints, but admittedly, I never thought about it in terms of accessibility. Thanks for bringing awareness to this and introducing us to a bright and talented woman. Nicely done, Anne!

    Oh, and “word of hand marketing” = love it!!!

  • Thanks to social media, I met my business partner, countless friends and colleagues — all of whom I would have never met otherwise. It is an amazing equalizer for sure! I absolutely love what Marjorie said about feeling free on social media. I think a lot of people are in that situation, where they are quickly judged based on appearance or disability. Communicating via social media erases those initial prejudices and allows ALL of us to be ourselves.

    Great video Anne. It was awesome to see your smiling face and I look forward to seeing more of you as your career undoubtedly takes off! 🙂

  • Wow – great job Anne. I’ve been working in the field of social media for four years now and never really thought about the issue of accessibility. Thanks for opening my eyes to a new side of this business!

  • That was certainly a wake-up call! I reached for my speakers to turn them down before I clicked on the video. (Thankfully, my hearing is fine but I choose to not be bombarded with noise.) I sometimes forget that we need to make our websites accessible. When I enter the alternate-text on my graphics and photos, I am aware of mobile devices and search engines. I also think that someone who is mousing over the image but I don’t often think of the visually impaired person who is using a screen reader. Thanks for the reminder!

  • Brilliant! Anne made me think about social media in a different light…. hmmmmm. Imagine! Thank you Anne!

  • Anne, you make a great point about social media. Allowing everyone to be able to connect with each other is one of the great side-effects of the internet and social media. (Provided they can access technology, of course!) I know for me, I’ve been able to connect with more like-minded people who can educate me further in the topics I care about (social media, poetry, etc).

    Thanks for making the video!

  • Mimi, thank you for your kind comments! When I studied abroad in Italy, I practically faced a double language barrier – but I had to be innovative to make it work, and it only fed my desire to meet more people and connect in unique ways.  I’ve only been in social media for 4 months, but it’s one way of satisfying my curiosity in terms of learning more about other people! Only if I discovered it sooner.

    I think its fantastic how you and others recognize communication goes beyond being able to hear and speak English. We all have our own approaches to communication – how we greet, hand shakes, hugs, eye contact, how much smiling, an eye wink here and there, showing pitch and emotions in other forms besides voice…the possibilities are endless! When more individuals embrace that perspective, opportunities for more relationships will open up. 

  • You are most certainly welcome Annette! When we take a step back and think, we are really fortunate to have access to this much information. It’s such a real treat to be able to jump in conversation without any awkwardness that sometimes occur in real life – I would imagine for some hearing people as well! 

  • ACCESSIBILITY! If you’re a business owner, being accessible via the social web is a big advantage over your competition; especially since most of your competition isn’t maximizing the medium to build trust and relationships within the virtual marketplace.

    Excellent video Anne – thanks for sharing : )

  • Tara, I love how you said it allows ALL of us to be ourselves. Even if I am sharing my thoughts through a Deaf perspective, I do it with the goal of providing everyone insights in how we communicate. Ever since I’ve been engaged in social media people don’t need time to accept the fact I’m Deaf – we get straight to the point of building positive rapport! I peeked at your Twitter bio – you mentioned you want to have your “own voice”. Yeah! Virtually anyone has the chance to make their own kind of “noise” in the masses. 

  • Tell me about it! When I graduated in May 2011, I had a real rough time finding a job. I hate to say it, but employers were hung up on the fact I was Deaf and questioned if it would be effective to hire me.  I still don’t work full-time, but when I stumbled into social media contract work, it was like finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  It was remarkable finding out that if we’re just genuine and transparent, it has a way of showing through even online, and people will be drawn.  It’s true that social media increases access to information, but also there’s another level of accessibility you don’t take for granted: forming relationships. I’m obviously very social, but it can be tricky at times to interact as freely as I’d like to at networking events or even just as I wait in long lines.  I have greater chances to jump in conversations and meeting people more quickly so that being Deaf – or being “shorter than the average bear” -doesn’t lag us. 

  • Like-minded people! Great statement for everyone to remember. We have the option of hiding certain things about ourselves. I used to debate whether if I should mask the fact that I’m Deaf during my job search, but I decided for me personally, to not do that anymore. I figured I would attract like-minded people that are open-minded. 

  • What an empowering statement – by being transparent we attract like minded and open minded people.  I will no longer fret about my shelf life, I am in my 60’s and enjoy collaboration and expanding our horizons.  I might not have a job but I am encourage to continue to search with your inspiration fresh in my mind.

  • Great way to put it – “The Great Equalizer”

    I didn’t know you were deaf either, Anne, until I saw the pinterest video you did last month. Oddly enough, I was thinking I might not have ever figured that out just through Twitter alone. I loved this last video, too, you’re really helping to show we’re stretching the limitations every day.

    Thanks for showcasing this Mark!

  • Thanks for popping in, Anne. I’m glad Mark introduced you!

    I’m wondering if you feel obligated in the online world to introduce yourself at some point as a woman who is deaf. I struggle with this. Do I want to be “Margie who is Little and does this that and the other thing” or do I just want to be me, and if people figure out i’m “abnormal” than I’ll deal with it? I feel a sort of obligation to let other folks like me know that there are opportunities to succeed, but i don’t want to define myself by one trait.

    It’s quite the conundrum.

  • Caroline Milligan

    Thanks for sharing Mark and Anne! I
    hope the job hunting is going well.
    I’ve posted your video/ blog on to Twitter, as I see your perspective has a
    resonating voice in the field of social media in emergency management.
    Accessibility for all has to be a driver when raising awareness of the
    importance of including social media as part of your organizations
    communications strategy. Using social media during crisis situations really
    could be the difference between, life and death!
    Thanks for posting! /C

  • I relate when you say you don’t want to define yourself with one trait. I didn’t feel so much obligated, but when I started working in social media I couldn’t help but let my Deaf perspective creep in because it’s revolved around communication, which is obviously what I have to be creative with on a daily basis. Now if I was going into something where my Deafness would have very little effect on, I probably wouldn’t mention it (i.e. a chemist? :-)) but I don’t preach it on a daily basis – look at me, I’m Deaf and I did this – I don’t even include it in my twitter bio or any other bio.  It is a unique component that has shaped me, and I believe it’ll show on its own in the right places.  Plus, people that have to overcome barriers they can acquire great natural skills at problem solving, being assertive, etc and that’s an asset to any business! My personal bottom line: disclose it when you feel it’s relevant! It’s quite the balance we have to strike isn’t it. Thanks for jumping in the conversation by the way! 🙂

  • And thank you for sharing this Caroline! I LOVE that angle. For example I can get text notifications if there’s a weather alert, but you’re right – particularly with twitter – it has potential in emergency response. I found out about breaking news probably a full day (if not more) later “in the old days” without something like twitter. 

  • I want to thank those that had the kind comments and upbeat attitude regarding my video and the insightful recognition of my Deafness as but one attribute contributing to my perspective! 

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  • good for you Anne. I was having a conversation about twitter, social media is actually very beneficial to the deaf. And then I wondered about the blind. Not sure if there is a way to translate a twitter post to audio, but that would be insane as fast as they come in. Social media is a way to connect, and for a business I would say at this point imperative to have a social media strategy.

  •  I find it INFURIATING that people continue to have these false hurdles in place prior to hiring talented people! What in the world are they thinking?

    Deaf, small, large, fat, bald, male, female – it shouldn’t matter!

    My favorite ridiculous requirement today is a college degree. Two of the most valuable employees I’ve ever seen in my corporate position were non-degreed women. The sad part was they had both capped out in terms of ascending the corporate ladder. I have noting but contempt for the idiots who refused to promote them simply because they did not meet some pre-ordained version of what someone in that role should have “achieved” in life.

    Utter nonsense. I feel a rant blog post coming on…..

  • I have a couple blind followers on Twitter and they engage with me very actively! Thanks Dean.

  • Well said Tony. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts!

  • I like that Mark. Accessibility as competitive advantage. Of course.

  • Good for you Colin. Courage.

  • Good insight Sherryl.  I’m not sure I have even seen “accessibility” on many development checklists.

  • My interactions with Anne made me look at things in a new way, too! Thanks for commenting Laura!

  • Do it.  By the way, you are going to LOVE my new book because it emphasizes this exact point. We are in an era of the democratization of power and influence. This is revolutionary, for all of us.

  • Thank you for taking your time to comment Ulug!

  • Wonderful perspective Yvonne. Thanks for adding to the discussion.

  • I’m glad this post helped Sookie.

  • Please do! True story. It was pretty odd leaving college (which I felt was really open minded place most of the time) into the biz world to find more resistance. Never have I felt this naive! 🙂 

  • This is a fantastic story Mark and Anne. In my course at UW-Madison, I have my students working with the  McBurney Disabilities Resources Center on campus this semester to help them learn how to leverage social media to help the center increase awareness and impact. I’m very excited to share this with the center and my students. What a great message! Thanks so much for sharing your perspective. It definitely has broadened my thinking about SM and SOPA. 

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  • Hi Don! I just checked this post today to see if any new comments popped up.  I think that is such an awesome initiative.  My generation really has the opportunity to increase awareness and in turn decrease ignorance out in the “real world” regarding perspective on others who are different and I’m already seeing improvement! 😀 Are you recording this progress with the center through a website or something? 

  • That’s fantastic you are seeing improvement (and taking the lead on creating change)! And I’d/we’d be happy to share our progress over the course of the next couple of months if you are interested. Of course, we’d love your input if you are inclined to share it regarding the project too. We have 2 students who utilize the services of the McBurney Center in the group so I’m really excited to see how the project progresses.

    And if I can help you out in any way, please let me know. A friend of Mark’s is a friend of mine 😉

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