Hamnah Asif Mistry Testimonial

Hamnah Asif Mistry St-Xavier-College Name: Hamnah Asif Mistry
Course: Masters in Public Policy
Institution: St. Xavier’s College- Autonomous, Mumbai

We live in a day and age where everything is readily available at our fingertips. One touch, one click and we have access to all information we could gather. But can we say that access is truly empowering? Internet/technology/social media can be empowering if it's done right. Internet is breaking down barriers and building bridges that support greater education, better health, career advancement and a strong global community through social media. Yes, it is empowering users and creating pathways to change, yet differences in access and entrenched sexism in societies limits how effective social media campaigns can be. But how do we define "access"? Is access inclusive? For persons with disabilities, accessibility means being able to use a product/device/service as effectively as a person without a disability. This means using inclusive design principles to make products/devices/services usable by a wider section of the population. Changing peoples' attitudes to disability is fundamental to achieving greater accessibility. The traditional view of disability is attempting to “fix” or rehabilitate a person to society's norms. The social model of disability aims to dismantle barriers so that a person with a disability can fully participate in the community. This more contemporary model emphasises a person's abilities rather than disabilities and encourages a person's independence and capacity by decreasing environmental barriers.

Persons with disabilities face as many different barriers as there are types and degrees of disability. For example, people with a visual impairment who use screen-reading software may be confronted by websites that have confusing navigation, or that lack descriptions of images or like my visually challenged classmate pointed out during the “Acess is empowerment” workshop, "Kuch websites pe bahaut zyada bheed baad hoti hai"; while people with a hearing impairment may be unable to participate in online conferencing because it lacks captioning. Through removing barriers, persons with disabilities will be better able to use and contribute to the richness of the Internet by participating independently in the communities of their choice.

#SocialSurfing/media, like everything else, has its pros and cons. The obvious good part is communication. While I am at it, I'm going to be honest. I can't go a day without Facebook/Twitter/WhatsApp/Instagram. We don't need to see each other everyday to update each other about our respective lives. It's as easy as uploading a picture and people know which corner of the world I'm relaxing in. It's bridging the distance.

Social media has made it possible for like minded individuals to discuss issues of vital importance, widen their personal knowledge and discover things they never knew before. For example, people around the world are now more involved than ever in their country’s politics. A very good example currently is the chaos on the JNU campus. Brilliant, isn't it? Social media proved to be a boon for our PM Modi's 2014 general election campaign as well. Social media is great for non-profit organisations who are trying to create awareness of issues of empowerment, sexual harassment, etc. A recent successful campaign has been "Speak Out on Female Genital Mutilation". There are a gazillion reasons why we love social media.

But what do I absolutely loathe? Not being able to have my share of privacy. I miss my sense of peace and privacy. I miss it. I really do.

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