Frontline Initiative Social Capital

Social media and opening the doors to more meaningful relationships:
A self-advocate’s perspective


Ed Bartz lives in Albany, NY where he also works as the Managing Editor for the on-line CapAbility Magazine. He can be reached at

Being a person born with a severe physical disability, communication has always been the most significant of all the obstacles I have faced. Since I was a youngster, my intellectual ability has always been questioned due to my often-unintelligible verbal communication.

In the early 60s, people who worked with me seemed restricted by the “typical stages of development”—I took longer to reach pre-determined milestones. I was developing at my own rate and I needed people around me who understood this. Thankfully, through technology, various communication devices, and lots of speech therapy, I am now quite skilled at communicating my thoughts (and more importantly, my witty and sarcastic ways).

Today, the availability of social media has allowed me to reconnect with many people of my past—professionals and friends I now communicate with through Facebook. They are always astonished by my progress and accomplishments.

Before this technology became available, I relied on telephone conversations to maintain a social life. To a certain extent, this accomplished the task, but it was very difficult for some people to understand my speech and/or my communication device. I was able to get my thoughts across, but not with the great detail or embellishment that people are typically comfortable with. Through social media and computers, I’m now able to provide greater detail into the topics at hand and my thoughts on complex issues. I use this medium to set up gatherings and share my wit and insights.

Without social media I also wouldn’t have my job. I assist in writing and editing an on-line magazine for The Center for Disability Services in Albany, NY. Having social capital helps me stay motivated to do my job and to advocate for other people. Through my job I meet many people doing interviews, advocating for services either for people with disabilities, or advocating for the people whom support us. I am known throughout the Capital Region of New York State as a voice for people with disabilities. I sit or have sat on several boards of agencies that assist people with disabilities and their families.

I have a lot to say and social media has provided me with the canvas to allow people to really get to know me. Nowadays, I wouldn’t know what to do with my evenings without being able to sit at my computer and chat with friends or sit and play mindless games as I wind down for the day. It has opened many doors for me to get to know my friends better, and for them to get to know me too.