As the winter months come upon us, so will winter weather. For many wheelchair users, and others with disabilities, winter weather could mean isolation from the community due to the barriers the snow (or other weather conditions) creates. With the advances in technology, social media, and video streaming apps, there are ways of staying connected with loved ones and engaging in community groups.
In our Fall 2020 Connections Newsletter, we discussed some ways to stay connected. These included joining Facebook groups, video messaging with friends and family, getting outdoors and going for a stroll, finding a hobby, and sending physical mail to friends. You can read more about these tips here: https://bit.ly/3nOY9ip
Since the outbreak of COVID-19 and the mandatory lockdowns and protocols, companies started fine-tuning their video apps and new apps have emerged. I thought I would break some of them down and the different options they include in a free account.
Zoom – I think it would be safe to assume that this is the video meeting app most people would be familiar with. With a free account, you can have an unlimited conversation with 1 other person, or have a 40-minute conversation with 3 or more people.
Google Meet – This one requires a google email address – so if you have Gmail, you are all set. With Google Meet, you can invite up to 100 participants for a 60-minute conversation with a free account.
Facebook Rooms – Or, are they called Meta Rooms now with Facebook’s new name and branding? I’m sure we will be learning all about it in the next few months, but hopefully, this feature remains the same. As a Facebook user, you can “create” a room and invite friends to join you there. As far as I know, this room can be “open” for as long as you want. But, we will see what happens with the new platform.
Marco Polo – This is an app that you can download on your iOS or Android device. It has a free and paid version, where the free version has limited capabilities. But, you are able to fully enjoy the app without purchasing the “pro” version. It acts as a walkie-talkie system, but with video. Friends can watch what you are saying “live” as it’s happening and answer you back with a video of their own. I personally use this with my partner and a group of friends and absolutely love this way of connecting. It gives you facetime while moving through your daily routine. Don’t have time to watch while your friend is “live?” No worries, you can watch it when you can and rewatch it as many times as you’d like.
Snapchat – This has been around for a while – and seriously, is anyone still using it? But it can be a great way to stay connected with others from a distance. Send and receive video messages and chats, or even play games. One problem I have with it is once you view these messages, they are gone! Sometimes I’m in the middle of watching a video or reading a chat and I get interrupted or distracted and end up losing what I was responding to and then forgetting what I wanted to respond with. But, others like that these messages/videos are a view one-time-only thing.
Then, if you are an iPhone user wanting to chat with another iPhone user, Facetime is already built into your phone. Chat away as often as you want with other iPhone users. Android users also have a built-in video function that allows you to video call other Androids or iPhone users.
No matter how you choose to connect, technology makes it possible to do so, and fairly easily. Community events are being offered in a virtual setting, or in some cases, a hybrid event where users can tune into the in-person event virtually. Growth happens outside of your comfort zone and sometimes reaching out and joining new groups can be scary. But if you never challenge yourself, you will never know what’s possible. Try something new today.