How Virtual Communities form
support networks and augment Social
Inclusion for the socially excluded.
Abstract Traumatic Brachial Plexus injured (TBPI) persons are under a high risk of becoming withdrawn and forced out of physical societal rings because of the extensive and complicated nature of their long
term injury. A promising platform to help prevent exclusion from their environment and deface abnormality is the internet in the form of social groups and online activities which may be used to supplement actions
preformed prior to their injury. As a step towards highlighting the complex psychological recovery for those who have a long term injury or live with a disability, this study aims to capture some of the best uses of
the internet for them by signifying the effect it has their lives.
Social Exclusion
Support Network
Social Inclusion
When people do not have the ability to participate in society effectively they become socially excluded.
Exclusion also normally stems from diverse members of a community being less able to relate to other
members in a community who seem to share similar interests, beliefs or abilities as each others. Social
support is identified as a key contributor to improving an individual’s mental state of mind and future
outlook. By accessing a virtual community, people can get advise and help from others in a similar
Types of Disabilities
Visual and hearing impairment, Cognitive and learning disabilities (Dyslexia), Physiological disorders and
hidden disabilities such as chronic, phantom pain and depression.
Information Communication Technologies
Virtual Communities
Online communities and social networking sites consist of groups of people who interact in a virtual
environment. A few examples of virtual communities are Face book, Bebo, Second life, and TBPI UK
a health information website and forum.
Internet Technologies = Applications, protocols and architecture.
Medical Technologies (MT) = ICT in Healthcare
Assistive Technologies (AT) = Assistive, adaptive or rehabilitative hardware and software tools.
Research Questions - Hypotheses
Researched online communities via the internet.
Case Study analysis
Observation & action-oriented experimental research of empirical subject (former case study)
Observation of TBPI UK & Face book Virtual community
TBPI UK Virtual community members Questionnaire
Medical Professionals Questionnaire
Q2 Are assistive software technologies effective?
H2:“If Dyslexic user (disabled user) is able to manoeuvre around the site faster when using Claroread
automatic text to speech software then the assistive software technology is assistive”.
Case Study
Four years ago, a male who trained daily at the gym competing in competitions and who had worked
as a transport engineer for many years is travelling home after work. On his way home he is involved
in a motorcycle incident.
As a result of the accident the individual now has restrictive but movement to the right leg, paralysis
of the left arm and experiences large spouts of nerve pain.
His days are filled with him trying to remove the negative feelings attracted by the pain and his other
limitations which include dyslexia. His social life has declined and opportunities to make new links
restricted, he had become increasingly depressed.
Results of experiment on Empirical subject &
introduction of assistive technologies (AT)
R1 The assistive hardware technologies were found to be
effective, the right handed keyboard allows the subject to type
faster and contentedly following a better key sequence.
Q1 Are assistive hardware technologies effective?
H1:“If Brachial Plexus injured user (disabled user) is able to manoeuvre faster when using a right
handed keyboard then the assistive hardware technology is assistive”.
Q3 Is society less exclusive to users who participate in an online community creating a less exclusive
society allowing more opportunism for social interactions for disabled people?”
H3:“If most beneficial element is socialising then internet online community creates more
opportunities for social interaction for disabled people”.
Q4 Can information communication technologies supplement any activities prior to injury?
H4:“If disabled users view the internet and associated technologies as having supplemented activities
prior to their disability then the technologies are beneficial”.
Additional research questions
Q5 Do internet technologies give people with a disability the ability?
Q6 Do Medical professionals think the Internet; online communities or support groups can help patient’s
pre or post operation?
Results of TBPI UK Virtual Community members
R3 The second most beneficial element for users of the TBPI UK
virtual community is socialising.
R4 75% of the participants from the TBPI UK Virtual community
view the internet and associated technologies as having
supplemented activities prior to their disability.
R5 Internet technologies create social inclusion supplementing
or enhancing activities hobbies such as gaming, shopping or
social interactions by offering them environments to facilitate
their disability. The study shows internet opens up a doorway for
an assortment of opportunities.
Results of Medical Professionals questionnaire
R6 When asked if pre or post operative patients are ever referred to
the internet or associated technologies the professor answers no but
answers but adds, “appropriate sites may aid rehab, but there is a
great deal of variation between injury and patients, and so websites
may not be able to cater”.
R2 The assistive software technologies were found to be
effective, the subject now visits TBPI UK virtual community on
a regular basis using Claroread text to speech software.
The clinical neuropsychologist refers and encourages her clients to look
up information on the internet.
In conclusion the study shows that the Internet used in conjunction with communication aids in the form of Assistive Technologies (AT) and Medical Technologies (MT) provide opportunities for people with a disability.
The opinions of one medical professional can have a huge influence on a socially excluded person who needs support and information. It would be invaluable if professionals in the field try virtual communities and
activities before deciding to refer or not. Society is far less exclusive to users who participate in an online community creating a less exclusive society and allowing much more opportunism for social interactions for
disabled people.
How has the virtual
health community
helped us?
On TBPI UK forum I met Garry
who is dealing with a high degree
of nerve pain caused by his injury
also. After chatting online, we now
intend to meet up in August.
Future work
TBPI UK virtual support
network helps build back up
the self-esteem I lost due to
my injury and here I get
respect given by others.
Thank you Liz!!
(Tbpi UK leader...)
Online activities allow me
to get information, advice &
understanding...its all just a
click away.
I would have liked to have been advised
about the appropriate websites by my
disability experts, medical professionals,
and rehabilitative teams during my stay in
hospital when I was most vulnerable
Everybody is
equal online!
We would like to see
connection of virtual
communities through the
internet on hospital wards
and used as part of the short
and long term rehabilitation
Build Second life community and virtual healthcare team using tools designed to entice disabled persons to generate social interaction through colourful graphics realistic features and join support groups
Information and Health communities introduced to patients on hospital wards.
Internet technologies used as a rehabilitative tools and included in rehabilitation program.
Virtual communities recommended by Medical professionals to their patients.
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Clare Williams <[email protected]>
Clare Williams - Business Information Technology, School of BCIM