“Tweet Reach” a Twitter communication project #TweetReach #DECRA ARC 2014-17

This project is approved as funded 2014-17 by the Australian Research Council and is under application for Ethical Approval at the University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia, Human Research Ethics Committee.

Its method is also published in the journal Developmental Neurorehabilitation and pre-print copies of this can be requested from the first author bronwyn.hemsley@newcastle.edu.au

Hemsley, B., Palmer, S., & Balandin, S. (2013). Tweet reach: A research protocol for using Twitter to increase information exchange in people with communication disabilities. Developmental Neurorehabilitation. Posted online on December 31, 2013. (doi:10.3109/17518423.2013.861529) 

Read More: http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.3109/17518423.2013.861529

Other researchers are also instrumental in this project: Prof. Susan Balandin (Victoria University, Wellington) and Dr. Stuart Palmer (Deakin University) were consulted in its design and will be involved in the analysis. Two PhD students will be engaged in investigating particular aspects of the use of Twitter for additional populations, including adults with Acquired Brain Injury, with co-supervision from Dr. Stephen Dann of the Australian National University and Prof. Leanne Togher of The University of Sydney.

The information below is taken directly from the DECRA application “Tweet Reach”


With as many as 7% of Australians having a physical and/or communication disability and being disenfranchised from information, Twitter offers a valuable form of social media allowing short segments of text communication that bypasses impaired speech. This program of research will evaluate the impact of training designed to increase use of Twitter for information exchange in people who have little or no speech and need information for better inclusion, empowerment, and to make evidence-informed decisions. Outcomes will inform policies and practices in training vulnerable populations to use social media for increased information exchange and will promote inclusion of all people with disabilities in social media campaigns.

Media Description 

Twitter is useful for communicating and exchanging information, particularly for people who struggle to speak or have poor motor control. This project will examine the impact of training adults with communication disabilities to use Twitter, and barriers and facilitators to successful use to increase information exchange in this vulnerable group.

PROJECT TITLE: Tweet Reach: Using Twitter to Increase Information Exchange in People with Communication Disabilities

The aims of this research are to:

(a) Determine the efficacy of an online training module for people with severe physical and communication disabilities to access and use social media micro-blogging (Twitter) to exchange information.

(b) Evaluate the use of social media Twitter by people with severe physical and communication disabilities.

There are three studies in this project. 2014 will see the start of Study 1.

STUDY 1. Expert consensus panel and survey of adults with physical and communication disabilities.

Rationale : Using a recent survey adapted from a survey on social media conducted with children with physical and communication disabilities, the proposed study will determine the frequency of use of Twitter in the target population and the nature and extent of any problems experienced in learning to use Twitter. Results will inform development of the training module for adults in Study 2. A face-to-face survey has been selected to avoid barriers to participation and rule out any unknown influence of carers in completing online surveys20, and to verify the primary communication method of each participant.

Method: Face-to-face interview survey of Australian adults with physical and communication disabilities.

Expert Consensus Panel for survey design : An expert consensus panel comprising 1 adult with cerebral palsy, 1 adult with aphasia following stroke, 1 adult with motor neurone disease, 1 occupational therapist (computer access issues), 1 psychologist (cognitive issues), and Dr Bronwyn Hemsley will discuss and agree upon adaptations of the survey of children with physical and communication disabilities for use with adults in this study.

Survey participants : After piloting the survey with 10 adults and making any further revisions indicated, a survey of 400 adults with lifelong, acquired, and progressive physical and communication disabilities will be recruited through Disability Organisations in Australia, based in NSW (n = 100), Victoria (n = 100), QLD (n = 100), and Western Australia (n = 100). Each sub-group (lifelong, acquired, progressive) will make up at least 25% of the sample for each data site.

Survey administration and analysis: Survey items will include categorical responses (Yes/No), Likert scale responses, with comments explaining responses. The final question will be open-ended and invite ‘any other comments’. Questions will seek information on the participants’ level of familiarity with and knowledge of Twitter, needs and preferences, expected barriers and facilitators to use of social media; and current rates of using social media for information or engagement. The survey will be administered once for each participant in a face-to-face setting at a venue to suit the participant. The researcher administering the survey will verify each participant’s level of communication impairment according to function (i.e., speech intelligibility in conversation) and note primary method of communication (i.e., speech, speech with a communication aid or device, speech with a speech interpreter). Face-to-face interviews for the survey are needed as participants might have poor literacy or difficulty entering responses on to a written survey owing to their physical disabilities. Frequency counts and descriptive statistics will be calculated for categorical responses and content themes of open-ended questions identified13.

Outcome: This study will provide information on adults with physical and communication disabilities familiarity with and knowledge of Twitter, and their needs and preferences in relation to using Twitter for information and engagement. The results of the survey will also inform design of a Webinar series of online training modules in Study 2. In addition, the information gained in this study will guide the development of policies and practices that support adults with physical and communication disabilities to use Twitter for information and engagement.

Study 2 and Study 3 follow on and further information about these studies will be posted in 2015.

Further information about the study and Information For Participants will be circulated after ethical approval is granted by The University of Newcastle Human Ethics Committee.

Please contact Dr. Bronwyn Hemsley on (02) 4921 7352 or bronwyn.hemsley@newcastle.edu.au with any queries about this project.

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