THE BLOG

Audio Social Networking is Opening Up Doors for Blind & Partially Sighted Young People

14/06/2013 12:22 BST | Updated 13/08/2013 10:12 BST

I often dash to my phone to check out a new notification and find that I've been tagged in yet another photo on Facebook. I always feel slight trepidation when this happens, because I don't know what's in that picture.

I don't know how I look, and I can't join in the following conversation that the picture inevitably sparks off among friends. Why? Because I'm totally blind. This means that because of the huge popularity of photo sharing on social networks, I often feel left out.

But this is not true in the case of one social site - Audioboo. It is an online audio sharing platform, which has become highly popular among the vision impaired community.

I first discovered Audioboo while browsing my Twitter feed last year. A tweet came up labelled "rainstorm". I clicked on the link and I was instantly listening to a recording of a Canadian rainstorm. It triggered memories of me as an eight-year-old running around with a tape recorder capturing as many sounds as I could; anything from conversations in the school playground, to parties, or even the sound of the school bus journey home.

I loved it because I could listen back to the voices of my family and friends, leaving me with a permanent audible record of important events in my life, which acted as a wonderful alternative to pictures. I recently found tapes of me at school in Colombia, and it was fascinating to hear how my lessons were conducted, and the enthusiasm with which I used to discuss the latest TV programmes with my friends in the playground.

Then I discovered people were using Audioboo to log their lives by uploading recordings of personal events, discussions with friends, audio blogs, product reviews and many more. I enthusiastically joined in.

I found the process of recording a boo on my iPhone, giving it a title, adding a description, attaching a picture if I wished and then hitting the save and upload button very easy and intuitive.

Within a day of booing, I was contacted by Delores, the community manager at Audioboo, who expressed an interest in my posts, particularly one where I recorded what it was like to get assistance on the London underground.

I soon started booing about travel related issues, the importance of Braille use among the vision impaired community, and recordings of my musical improvisations.

I quickly began to get followers, and was soon exchanging direct messages (private Audioboo messages) with other Audioboo users.

Many of the people I've spoken to on Audioboo have become friends. In my opinion audio social networking can make a huge difference to blind and partially sighted people who don't have friends living nearby and who for whatever reason find it difficult to travel. It's also a great way for sight impaired people to share advice and get information on issues relevant to them.

That's why while volunteering at The Royal London Society for Blind People I suggested that the charity get an account on Audioboo. Staff at the network loved the idea of a partnership with RLSB, and after a couple of meetings the RLSB channel went live in mid-November last year.

I am now Online Communities Assistant at RLSB, where I look after the production of content. We publish interviews, news and features for blind and partially sighted young people. It's great to think that sharing recordings on Audioboo started off as a passionate hobby, and has now developed into a job. Poignantly for me, I'm helping to inform people of services that will help blind and partially impaired people in their daily lives.

The reason I have taken to Audioboo is that by being in total control of the audio content I produce, I can control how I present myself through the content I upload or the topics I choose to share. In Audioboo, speech and sound is the predominant way to communicate, rather than the emphasis on visual communication that's the norm on other social media sites. Through speech and sound, I can present my world exactly as I experience it.