Take it offline!
This Education in Motion resource is also available as a printable PDF.
Online forums provide a safe and fun platform for people across the world to come together and share interests and experiences. These virtual clubs allow members to bond with a group of friends who are accessible at any time of the day, from anywhere in the world. Communities like these are especially important for people with disabilities and chronic illnesses. When health problems or mobility limit access to the local community, members can connect with a network of understanding, caring, and supportive online friends.
Here are six friendly online communities for people with disabilities and chronic illness based in Australia.
1. My Disability Matters Club
Founded in 2016 by Tasmanian disability advocate Dale Reardon, My Disability Matters Club is a social network built to empower people with disabilities to find their community. Members are invited to post statuses for their friends to read, comment on others’ statuses, share their ideas, and participate in discussions with the wider community.
Within the forums, there are social subgroups that focus on specific disabilities and interests. Some groups are specific to local regions, giving participants the opportunity to find friends who live nearby. The forums are a wonderful way to share information about local resources, as well as to make friends and engage with the community.
The forum is based in Australia but is open to international members, bringing together a diverse culture of fun and caring people.
Livewire is an online support group for young people living with chronic illness and disability. Although centered around youth from 10 to 20 years old, Livewire also welcomes the family and carers of young people to connect with others for support and information. Trained chat hosts monitor and moderate the forum at all times to maintain a safe space for young members to participate and express themselves.
There are few fully moderated online communities, which makes Livewire a very valuable resource for keeping disabled youth safe online. Members are able to build a strong support network of friends around themselves in a positive environment without risk to their privacy or online safety.
3. Chronic Pain Australia
Chronic Pain Australia plays host to an online community dedicated to connecting with, supporting, and accepting people experiencing chronic pain. Its members are welcoming and kind, and engage in a variety of discussions from medical treatments to recipes and everything in between. The forum also has a dedicated team of moderators ensuring that it remains a friendly, informative and positive place to socialise.
Since its foundation in 2007, Chronic Pain Australia has amassed a wonderful health knowledge base. Using the search function, members can find answers to almost any question they may have as well as links to studies and other useful resources. With a strong and established community, the Chronic Pain Australia forums are a great online space to make friends and find support.
4. Mind Australia
Although the Mind Australia forum is primarily focused on mental health and wellbeing, it openly welcomes contributions from members with disabilities and chronic illness. The community is divided into two sections, allowing one forum for people with lived experiences, and one for carers, friends, and family. The forums are safe, anonymous, and monitored 24 hours a day 7 days a week by mental health professionals.
Online members can share their story and build a support network of people in similar situations while they learn about mental health and coping strategies. Mind Australia also reports on the latest science and medical news, and hosts live chats with mental health professionals for members to contribute and ask questions.
HealthfulChat is an online disability live chat designed to bring people with disability and chronic illness together to support one another. Although the community is moderated, there is a strong emphasis on self-moderation and respect for others which makes participation and very positive experience for members.
There are live chat rooms for every topic from medication to parenting and entertainment. One of the standout features of the live chat format is its option for anonymity. Users can join a chat and express themselves without it being tied to their real name or screen name. However, some members choose to set up a profile and use a screen name to build their online presence. Building a profile also makes it easier to stay connected with online friends, follow certain topics, and send private messages. HealthfulChat is Australian based but open to international members. This means that no matter the time, there is always a friend online to chat with.
6. AT Chat
Led by a team of people with disabilities, AT Chat helps you find the right assistive technology (AT) by creating and sharing stories of how others are using AT to live, work and play to their full potential. AT Chat releases weekly online content on experiences and knowledge from other AT users along with information from health professionals. Whether it be equipment, aids or gadgets to facilitate better independence and function AT Chat is designed for AT users by AT users in a fun and engaging may.
Online forums provide a free, easy and fun way to build a network of caring and supportive friends. Community members are able to share interests, talk about experiences, and form valuable friendships with others. Being a part of a community is important for mental wellbeing and through online forums, they can be accessible to everyone.