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Disabil Rehabil. 2015;37(17):1531-42. doi: 10.3109/09638288.2015.1045990. Epub 2015 Jun 1.

"We definitely need an audience": experiences of Twitter, Twitter networks and tweet content in adults with severe communication disabilities who use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC).

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School of Humanities and Social Science, The University of Newcastle , Newcastle , Australia .



The aim of this study was to investigate the Twitter experiences of adults with severe communication disabilities who use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) to inform Twitter training and further research on the use of Twitter in populations with communication disabilities.


This mixed methods research included five adults with severe communication disabilities who use AAC. It combined (a) quantitative analysis of Twitter networks and (b) manual coding of tweets with (c) narrative interviews with participants on their Twitter experiences and results.


The five participants who used AAC and Twitter were diverse in their patterns and experiences of using Twitter. Twitter networks reflected interaction with a close-knit network of people rather than with the broader publics on Twitter. Conversational, Broadcast and Pass Along tweets featured most prominently, with limited use of News or Social Presence tweets. Tweets appeared mostly within each participant's micro- or meso-structural layers of Twitter.


People who use AAC report positive experiences in using Twitter. Obtaining help in Twitter, and engaging in hashtag communities facilitated higher frequency of tweets and establishment of Twitter networks. Results reflected an inter-connection of participant Twitter networks that might form part of a larger as yet unexplored emergent community of people who use AAC in Twitter.


Communication disability; Twitter network data; Twitter research; inclusion; mixed methods research; social media studies

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