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Recent developments in technology have aimed to make the internet more accessible to People with Disablities, whether it's web standards in HTML and CSS for the visually impaired, or operating systems that offer alternative ways of using the keyboard and mouse and screen readers (see, for example, the [GNOME Accessibility Project].)

But wikis are social environments: what of impairments that affect a person's social skills? This is a aspect of accessibility that does not seem to have been widely considered yet. Perhaps people imagine that everyone is a geek online, and has no social skills anyway? Yet even the archetypal "Geeks" connect socially with their peers.

It appears to fall outside the remit of standards bodies such as the WorldWideWebConsortium, since they are concerned with TechnologicalSolution?s. It has not yet been considered by social places such as MeatBall -- or has it? Is the mantra of AssumeGoodFaith sufficient?

WikiPedia has lately seen several new users with WikiPedia:Asperger's_disorder (essentially a weak form of autism), or related conditions. Some of these users have had problems including:

What can social communities like MeatBall do to increase inclusion?

Asperger's syndrome goes deeper than an inability to perceive ParaLanguage, which to some extent afflicts all text-based communication. Sufferers don't understand ParaLanguage in person either, so they cannot understand any ParaLanguage online (there are some, such as explicit: emoticons, styled: emphasis, implicit: rhetoric). However, not understanding ParaLanguage is a necessary but not sufficient criterion to diagnose Asperger's. There are a wide range of disorders that disrupt social protocols, which naturally disrupt SocialSoftware. For OnlineCommunities, this is worse than physical communities as those lacking social skills often turn to computers and therefore the Internet for expression. Thinking to find emotionless, unambiguous text, they find communities rich with multiple meanings and social conventions.

It may be there is no solution to this problem, other than being aware of it, and being patient. Ultimately, if we treat every newcomer as someone who does not understand the rules and conventions, we should all benefit. This is somewhat at odds with the traditional geek culture of "in at the deep end and swim".


I've also - German is my mother tongue - a reduced ability to perceive subtle forms of humour or sarcasm, because of a lack of English language knowledge. This has sometimes positive, sometimes negative effects. There are some people that use these language elements often - they become hard to communicate with. On the other hand, certain types of provocations are hidden and don't lead to anger - that can be often an advantage. -- HelmutLeitner


Would this page be better placed at MentalIllness??

Asperger's isn't an illness.

Its a syndrome though. Some people call it asperger disorder (see the site [WrongPlanet.net Asperger's Syndrome Support],). Asperger's Syndrome is a unique becuase of the type of effect it has on people. ~~~~

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