In the past year, the website for the Hearing Loss Association of California has been undergoing a major overhaul in its content, design, and interaction with HLA members and website visitors. The website was redesigned with the idea of engaging more members via social media networks while still providing the same useful information on local and national resources. The Hearing Loss Association of California has been at a critical point in its impact in the state of California and the website should be both a resourceful and powerful tool for outreach for all members. As I have designed this website in the past year, I’ve been shocked by the unfamiliarity of many HLA members with the social media giants that are Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. As a member of the emerging 18-35 young adult generation, these websites are crucial to how I keep in touch with the many other young adults whom I have met at the past three HLAA conventions that I have attended. I find out about the latest news in technology, talk about advocacy, and read various articles about their life experiences with hearing loss. I want the older generation to be able to engage with each other in the same way because I have seen it make a difference.
This is where you come in. The HLA-CA website, at its core, is a tool that all the California chapters should use. Each chapter in the north and south is listed on the chapters tab on the website. If chapters have their own personal websites, like the Los Angeles and Sacramento chapters, website visitors will be redirected to that chapter’s website when they click on their names. For those who do not have their own websites, like the San Fernando and Peninsula chapters, the links for them take website visitors to a page that lists their contact info, meeting times and location, and available accessibility. The overall HLA-CA website is managed and updated by the Webmaster, but it is the responsibility of each chapter to update their own web pages. The chapters that have web pages have each been provided with a log in name and password that allows them to have complete independence in updating their own information about their chapters. Please be sure that you update your web pages because the more engaged you are on your page, the more people you will attract. I know this as a fact because when I engage more in social media, I hear more from people.
Social media exists because of the internet and cell phones, which are increasingly allowing for more accessible and free ways to communicate with our family, friends, and co-workers. As of this past spring, HLA-CA has both a Facebook page and a Twitter page. Both of them post the latest articles from the state newsletter and any local or national news that would be of interest to people with hearing loss, such as movie captioning, hearing loss or disability legislation, cochlear implant and hearing aid technologies, tinnitus research, social media uses, and the health and socialization of people with hearing loss. The news is not for one population or generation; it is useful to all who are affected by hearing loss. I encourage you all to “Like” the Hearing Loss Association of California on Facebook at www.facebook.com/hearinglossca, and “Follow” it on Twitter at www.twitter.com/hla_ca. If you are unfamiliar with either website, there will be a social media presentation at the upcoming HLA-CA state conference in February, or you can contact me, Rhianon Gutierrez, about giving a presentation for your chapter.
The newsletter articles were, until Spring 2011, only published in print format, but now selected articles can be found online, both in downloadable PDF format and as blog entries on the main page of the website. This gives people a chance to be able to access the articles in an alternative format and save on paper and shipping costs. Since the articles will be posted online, I encourage you to share them via email and social networks, including the ones that you may potentially write. It’s a great way to start an online dialogue that may lead to an unexpected connection or insight.
A website is always more interesting if it has personal stories and images on it. I’m writing to ask chapters to share community advocacy and meeting stories and take high quality pictures, then share them with us on our Facebook page or email an article and an accompanying high quality picture for me to post on the HLA-CA website. Consider how the state website can help give your chapter a voice and to educate people about the mission of HLA-CA and what it means to be engaging in and fulfilling that mission. In this world where technology continues to make accessible so many things that weren’t accessible before, become engaged. The time is now.
Lastly, I want to make the website transparent. The website is controlled by members of the Board of Trustees. Many people often ask us what we talk about and what we do for the chapters. As a member of the board who wants to work for and with the chapters, I feel that its important that we keep you connected with how the board makes decisions, and to hear from you about how we can most help you. Summaries of our board meetings and updates from the President and other board members will occur on a quarterly basis. Right now, I am working solo as both the Webmaster and the Social Media Manager, but I want all chapter members to be engaged on the HLA-CA website and its Facebook and Twitter pages. My work is given importance by those who engage with my posts. I’m doing it for you. I expect a mutual exchange, and I encourage you to send me any cool articles, pictures, or videos, or even petitions and notices on advocacy issues that I should post on any of the three sites. I’ll give a shout-out to you and your chapter.