Myself in a yellow jumper and a yellow checked dungaree dress. The background is all black and I am holding my hands up to represent confusion. I have glassed on, minimal makeup and my hair is straight.
Virtual Occupational Therapy Placement 2020

The Online Borders Between Being a Professional and a Disabled Activist

This week on my virtual occupational therapy placement I have been doing the normal placement bits and pieces including a bit of policy reading about RCOTs (Royal College of Occupational Therapists) social media guidelines, Introduction to social media, (2019). I must admit I’d been putting policy reading off as this is normally seen as the essential but boring part of placement, however to my surprise it wasn’t boring as it made me question whether I can use social media as a professional and a disabled activist at the same time.

Due to being a disabled activist, I’m on a lot of social media platform Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. I mean I do post more personal things on Instagram and on my private Facebook profile but apart from this most of the things I do and post about are published for the world to see and I wouldn’t have it any other way as I very much enjoy being a disabled activist. I see my disability as a tool, and I want to use that tool to the best of my abilities but this does make me questions my role about and if I can be a disabled activist and a professional in the online world. A common question about professional online profiles is… Should professional and personal profiles be kept separate? I keep my professional and personal profiles separate on most platforms that I’m on apart from Twitter. This is because on my Twitter profile if I’m not posing anything OT related then its disability-related so therefore, I don’t feel the need to separate them especially with my target audience for my blog being disabled individual and healthcare professionals.

However, after reading the policies I started to question if this was the right thing to do… I noted that the guidelines mentioned that you can’t be directly negative on social media. However, my role as a disabled activist is to call someone out if I feel that they’ve been ablest.

For example, a few weeks ago, I tweeted this:

As it happens on this occasion, I didn’t name the bar I was in because I couldn’t find a Twitter account for them but if I could, I would have tagged them to call them out. But as an online professional you shouldn’t be directly negative according to the guidelines. Which goes against some of the content I post as a disabled activist. So, where do I stand? Can I even post content like this anymore? Do I need separate accounts?

In all honesty, I don’t really know what my best option is and even from discussing this in supervision, it’s still something that I need to go away and think about. I know it’s not all about views, but I’ve put a lot into building up my online profile and I don’t really want to change it. I can re-evaluate it, yes but until I’ve had a long think about this, I don’t know what I need to change and if changing it will be worthwhile.

Another point that made me question myself is giving advice to service users. As many of you know on my blog, I don’t just publish OT related content I also write many blogs about cerebral palsy awareness and will continue to do so. This means that sometimes I get emails from parents or people with CP asking for advice which I guess is okay if it’s anything CP related as I have many connections that I can direct them towards. But what if is something OT related? I can’t give out advice to service users as that’s deemed as unprofessional. Therefore, this makes me question putting my contact details on my blog. But this is not a personal email and I want people to be able to contact me, so I can connect with other OT’s and bloggers. So yet again where do I stand? I could put something on the blog about not being able to give out occupational therapy advice, maybe? I guess when I started this blog, I never thought my profile would be that big that I needed to do this and maybe I need to re-evaluate the structure of my site.

The final contradiction I picked up on when reading the policies was about having content published online and how people may choose to publish something anonymously in which this is far from what I do. I regularly have my work published on my own website and many other platforms in which I sign my name at the end and provide a link to my Twitter handle. Which again makes me question if I need to have a clear differentiation between my occupational therapy work and my disabled activism work. During supervision, my educator said, ‘you’re an occupational therapist and that’s your professional identity’ and of course I wouldn’t want to do anything the jeopardise my career. But I’ve never going to stop standing up for disability rights and what I believe because it is harder getting your voice heard when you’ve got a disability and now, I’ve got this platform I’m not going to shy away…

So, does this mean that I’ll have to choose between being a professional and a disabled activist?

My educator brought me this book to supervision this week. I think it’s going to be a useful tool- the geek inside of me can’t wait to start highlighting and putting sticky notes on the key pages. I’m hoping that this book along with reflecting and using my clinical reasoning will help me to make sense of all the questions that have come up in this blog and will help me to decide my next steps. I’m not going to have any answers to these questions until I’ve completed this placement as it will take a bit of time and research to come to a concluded judgement. Maybe I’m overthinking it because I don’t want to be seen to be ‘doing the wrong thing’ or be seen to be doing something that I’m ‘only just getting away with’. But doesn’t someone have to challenge these views in order for them to be developed?

What do you think?

Thank you for reading and thank you for your amazing support with the placement,

and dare I do it… @GeorgiaVineOT

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13 thoughts on “The Online Borders Between Being a Professional and a Disabled Activist”

  1. Hi.
    I love your blog. I have struggled to except my disability (cerebral palsy) and so a teacher at my school has worked with me to try and help me accept it and in many other ways too. She found your blog and also CP Teens and since then I have read your blog. You inspired me to right my own blog about how my disability affects me and I want to thank you for that. I find that blogging helps express how I feel do u?
    I was also wondering if u would have a look at my blog and maybe follow like I am to u? My blog is
    You are a very inspiring person.
    From Nia.

    1. Aw that’s so great I’m so glad! Blogging has helped me so much I completely agree! Yeah of course I’ll follow! Thank you you’re very inspiring too!

  2. Thanks. Maybe we could chat sometimes. Get to know each other. It’s nice having someone the same as me. My sister’s got ataxic cerebral palsy and a tremmer so here is different so it’s not the same.
    Nia xxx

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