Use of social network to support visually impaired people: A Facebook case study

The use of Information and Communication Technologies can be seen as an important factor for social inclusion in its different aspects - economic, social, relational and informational, among others. Inclusion potentiality is even more relevant for groups of people who face limiting life conditions which determine social barriers. This study investigated the social support offered to people with disabilities based on the social network analysis method. The research objective was to make the online support dynamics for low vision people, friends and relatives evident, having as case study the Facebook Low Vision group. The social network modelling and quantitative analysis were performed from user data collection, posts, comments and likes. Contents were classified according to the type of support (Emotional or Instrumental) and according to its intention (Offered or Requested), represented in graphs as indicators for analysis. Results pointed towards a larger use rate of Instrumental and Offered support although a more intense and comprehensive exchange of Emotional and Requested support was found. Data collection limitations indicate the need for more empirical studies on the social use of socio-technical networks for different types of social support. This theme points to a research agenda about the role of information and communication technologies as a possible condition for inclusion, life quality and well-being of people with disabilities.