Editor's Note: We asked our AccessWorld contributors to create AFB Blog posts to provide support to our readers during the coronavirus saga. These posts will address topics such as accessible medical devices, accessible work-from-home solutions, online learning for students and adults, accessible social gaming, staying connected with others digitally, keeping technology and workspaces sanitary, home fitness resources, and more.

By Bill Holton, AccessWorld Author

You are doubtlessly familiar with the two major social networks: Facebook and Twitter. Using them you can stay in touch with friends and make new friends around the world. Today, with the spread of COVID-19 and the current federal guidelines regarding social distancing, these networks are becoming an even more essential way to maintain friendships and stay connected while we limit our in-person social interactions and gatherings.

In these difficult times, however, it may be prudent to make some new friends a bit closer to home. Staying connected with people who can pitch in during an emergency, or someone to share the latest neighborhood gossip with is still important. But how?

At the moment, the Welcome Wagon is less likely to show up at your front door if you move into a new apartment. And meeting and striking up a conversation with a new “friend-to-be” in the park is also problematic, at best.

So how do you introduce yourself to that new neighbor, or learn about the family around the corner you always meant to introduce yourself to, but never had the chance? One way is to participate in a third social network called Nextdoor, which connects you with neighbors who share your zip code, subdivision, or neighborhood. This network also has an iOS app and Android app.

I first joined Nextdoor when a neighbor sent me an invitation, but you can join directly, as well. I used the iOS app, which was VoiceOver accessible, though I do have trouble posting messages I have dictated on my iPhone. I occasionally experience this same issue when posting to other apps via dictation, however, so this is an issue you may or may not experience. I have never had any trouble posting via the web interface, which is extremely screen-reader friendly.

You will be amazed at just how helpful your neighbors can be, if they are aware help is needed. For example, when a power switch on my leaf shredder died, it wasn’t worth sending it in for a factory repair. I posted a message on Nextdoor hoping to find someone who was enough of an electrician to help me get it fixed. I offered to pay, but the gentleman who wound up helping refused payment. So, I took him to lunch, and we have now become friends. I have also used the network to find referrals for reliable handymen and other local professionals.

When I checked in to the app yesterday, I discovered a number of people in my community who were already offering to help individuals who didn’t feel safe venturing out with grocery and pharmacy trips due to their increased risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus. Using Nextdoor, I can also keep up with what’s been going on in town. For example, did anyone get hurt in that screeching auto crash I heard the other night? Happily, the answer was no. Is there anyone in my small town who does guitar repair? Yes, and he did an exceptional job, and even offered me free pickup and delivery.

Nextdoor has been a great resource for me, and it may be for you, as well. In these next few weeks of staying home and socially distancing, it can be a fantastic way to find out what is happening down the street, around the corner, and even next door.