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Disability, anonymity, and the dark side of the Internet

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Disability, anonymity, and the dark side of the Internet

The virtual world of the Internet can offer respite from the social isolation and poor access that many people with disability experience in their daily life. But, as Jax Jacki Brown discovered, it's a world that is not without its own pitfalls.

The Internet has been hailed as one of the most revolutionary advances in terms of how we communicate with each other. And for some of us with disabilities, it has brought great and positive changes to our lives. The Internet can reduce the experience of social isolation and exclusion, and provide an important means of connection when, all too often, inaccessible buildings, inadequate transport, and negative social reactions hamper our full and equal participation in society.

The Internet can also be beneficial in the way it can 'liberate' us from our impairments and allow us to enter a virtual world where our disability is invisible and we are not subject to the social stigma of disability. From personal experience, however, I know that living this double life can be damaging. The Internet has a darker side.

I spent my late teens as an able-bod wanna-be by night and shy, depressed 17 year old in a wheelchair by day. I was intensely lonely and desperate to be seen as a sexual being. I wanted to be desired by someone - anyone - and was painfully aware that my disability made me unfit girlfriend material in the eyes of many. So I went online, where I could hide my disability, and in chat rooms late at night I found a lot of men who wanted me. At the time, I relished the freedom to step into an online world where I was 'normal'. But in the end, for me, it did more harm than good.

I was young and pretty, and with the webcam aimed deliberately on my upper body, I could pretend my wheelchair didn't exist. I was wanted by men mostly for my ability to write erotica on demand. In chat rooms I was the young woman I wanted to be: smart, funny, and importantly, hot.

I would wake up late, trying to sleep as long as I could so as not to confront my real life. In the morning I'd see my wheelchair waiting for me. I would climb into it and look down at my legs in a short skirt, which was exactly the same cut as my best friend's at the time, and try desperately not to notice my wheels. I would wait for night to come, when my online popularity in chat rooms would make me feel accepted socially and wanted sexually, and give me momentary reprieve from my wheelchair hell.

References and further information

This article was originally produced by Ramp Up.

 

To view the rest of the article visit the Ramp Up website http://www.abc.net.au/rampup/articles/2014/01/20/3925472.htm

 

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