As some background, I suffered a traumatic brain injury when I was 11, but I’d like to think that I turned out okay. Perhaps “turned out” is incorrect, since it is a process; we are continually evolving and becoming more as we move forward in society. I recognize in my own life how profound an impact the whole computer-mediated communication paradigm (big idea, way of looking at the world) has been in my life.
Okay, let us consider what computer-mediated communication is, first and foremost. It is, quite simply, communicating to others through the use of networked computers as a medium. In simplest terms, it is e-mail, or asynchronous communications of times past during the heyday of bulletin board systems, or BBSs.
As the Internet evolved, so too did various ways of finding like-minded individuals on dating sites and the like, but that has less to do with the goal of advocating for expanding the use of computer-mediated communication among disabled individuals. It’s a profound realization that when you have ideas that are presented on a more or less level playing field alongside other ideas, an exponential increase in credibility is gained just because the ideas are not attached to the physical bag of the disabled individual.
There have pretty much always been various means of communicating in different levels of near real time. Some of the Multi-User Domains (MUDs) have been fun, as have the ubiquitous Usenet newsgroups, and various similar groups thrive today. Then there is the Internet Relay Chat, or somewhat related ICQ which is used to communicate. There also is Skype, or Chatroulette, but those latter two pieces might not be beneficial when trying to win friends and impress others for the subsets of the general population that I’m thinking of.
I know that due to my own disabilities, people tend to be impatient waiting for ideas to formulate and become verbalized, to the point where, more often than not, I feel that many of my ideas tend to be dismissed merely because of the packaging that is associated with the ideas.
Computer-mediated communication has been no less than miraculous in my life. It has enabled me to reach beyond the local immediate environment of supportive individuals, and engage with other people about big ideas. I’m not certain that I will be able to bring happiness to many people, but even if through my encouragement some people gain additional resources and a better ability to reach out to others, then perhaps I have done more than before.
Currently, soldiers are surviving catastrophic injuries because they are able to receive care very near the incidents and, triaged at the battle scene, are moved up through varying levels of care, and have very supportive environments before they return stateside. Once they are stateside, some philosophies of treatment advocate heavily involving the family in helping the wounded recover.
What would an ideal program look like in order to foster the use use of computer-mediated communication when trying to reintroduce the wounded warriors to the larger society? I am not entirely sure that I have a concrete idea of what a program should look like, beyond the basics of some sort of Internet connection and possibly a word processor, and an account with some Internet portal or another to access the “cloud computing resources.”
Certainly, the potential of computer-mediated communication to improve the lives of many people exists. There are probably many communication problems which likely contribute to diminished quality of life issues. My level of permanent disability may be relatively minor, but nonetheless, I do still speak significantly slower than the national average.
I suppose that I have done well, following through with education opportunities opened to me through vocational rehabilitation, obtaining my bachelor’s degree, and then my master’s degree in Library and Information Studies. At the hospital where I work, I work with computers mostly for the employees. I recognize there is big potential.