Assessment of usage patterns and needs of persons with an intellectual disability in Facebook

Carmit-Noa Shpigelman, Ph.D, University of Haifa, 2015

This research was supported by a grant from Shalem Fund

Participation in social networking sites has considerable potential for persons with an intellectual disability (ID) in terms of creating communication channels, maintaining social relationships, developing new relationships, improving interpersonal communication skills, getting updated information and spending their leisure time.
These opportunities can contribute to the quality of life of persons with ID. To date, research in social media has not included persons with ID. Therefore, the present study aimed to present the voices of person with ID and to describe their usage experience in Facebook. Personal interviews and observations were conducted with 20 persons with ID who use Facebook and 16 supporters, family members or service providers, in order to learn about the participants’ usage patterns, needs, challenges,
risks and coping strategies. The findings indicated that the participants use Facebook as the general population i.e., at least once a day and to maintain social relationships.
The participation in Facebook contributed to their subjective well-being and personal empowerment. The participants primarily used visual functions such as watching or posting photos and video clips. Furthermore, the majority used Facebook safely, although they encountered difficulties in understanding Facebook language and the related risks. The findings highlight the need of persons with ID to expand their social circles through the virtual world. This study has practical implications in terms of developing training and support programs that make the information in Facebook more accessible for this population.

For the Full Text in Hebrew press here 


A video describing the research, Editor : Shay Shlomy, 2016