Internet Access

Jan 27, 2011
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The Department of Justice is working towards broadening the authority of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in regards to the Internet, specifically websites. New data indicates that fewer people with disabilities are using the Internet compared to the general population. The main reason seems to deal with accommodation issues.

A new survey by the Pew Internet Project found:

– 2 percent of American adults say they have a disability or illness that makes it harder or impossible for them to use the Internet.

– 54 percent of adults living with a disability use the Internet, compared with 81 percent of adults who report none of the disabilities listed in the survey.
– 41 percent of adults living with a disability have broadband at home, compared with 69 percent of those without a disability.
Statistically speaking, disability is associated with being older, less educated, and living in a lower-income household. By contrast, internet use is statistically associated with being younger, college-educated, and living in a higher-income household. Thus, it is not surprising that people living with disability report lower rates of internet access than other adults.  However, when all of these demographic factors are controlled, living with a disability in and of itself is negatively correlated with someone’s likelihood to have internet access.

People living with disability, once they are online, are also less likely than other internet users to have high-speed access or wireless access.  For example, 41% of adults living with a disability have broadband at home, compared with 69% of those without a disability. This finding is in line with a much larger 2009 federal survey which looked at the data another way:  39% of American adults who do not have broadband internet access are living with a disability.

Pew Internet’s research has consistently shown that broadband access and mobile access deepen an internet user’s relationship with the online world:

•    43% of Americans say that people who do not have broadband at home are at a major disadvantage when it comes to finding out about job opportunities or learning career skills.
•    34% of Americans see a lack of broadband access as a major disadvantage to getting health information.
•    People with wireless internet access are more likely than other internet users to post their own health experiences online or to access the health information created by other people in online forums and discussion groups.

Susannah Fox, associate director of the Pew Internet Project states “It’s notable that so few people cite a disability as a reason for not getting online, but dramatically fewer people with disabilities have broadband or even use the Internet at all.”

Tom Foley of the World Institute on Disability says it comes down to economics. When a piece of adaptive equipment to make the web accessible costs up to several thousand dollars and you’re living on a fixed income as many people with disabilities are, the internet becomes less of a priority.

To learn about Computer Assistive Technologies, check out AbilityHub’s website.

Author: Jenny Carlton

  • Bonnie

    This made me remember part of Obama’s State of the Union address this week, “Within the next five years, we will make it possible for business to deploy the next generation of high-speed wireless coverage to 98% of all Americans. This isn’t just about a faster internet and fewer dropped calls. It’s about connecting every part of America to the digital age.” Would be nice if people with disabilities were a focus in this initiative, but he didn’t mention that . . .