Internet use higher among people with a disability in UK

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Tuesday, 8 October 2013 14:56pm

More people with a disability are using the internet more frequently for social networking and job seeking than people without a disability, according to a report released by UK communications regulator Ofcom.

The report titled Disabled consumer’s ownership of communications services (PDF 530 KB) looks at how those with hearing, vision, mobility or multiple impairments use communications services and the internet.

As part of the British Population Survey (BPS), Ofcom commissioned the inclusion of disability specific questions which included whether or not they considered themselves to have a disability or long term illness that affected their everyday lives.

The report reveals that income and employment are the factors most impacting on a disabled person's access to communications devices and the internet.

Key findings

  • While ownership of communications services is generally lower among people with a disability (55 per cent) than those without a disability (83 per cent), disabled people who are employed are as likely to own communications services as employed non-disabled consumers.
  • Internet access among employed disabled people (87 per cent) is higher than employed non-disabled consumers (83 per cent).
  • For both disabled consumers and nondisabled consumers, age and income impact on internet access.
  • People with hearing impairment however are least likely to have access to the internet when compared with other disability groups. This is likely to be because hearing impairment is more likely to occur later in life, when people are less likely to be internet users.
  • People with vision impairment have higher levels of ownership of some devices than the average across the entire disabled sample. Thirty-three per cent of people with a vision impairment own a smartphone compared to 27 per cent of other disabled people.
  • People with vision impairment are also more likely to have a personal internet connection with sixty-two per cent compared to 55 per cent for the rest of the disabled sample.
  • Internet access for people aged 15 to 34 remains consistent for both disabled consumers and non-disabled consumers. Ninety per cent of people with a disability within this age group have internet access, compared with 93 per cent of people without disability.

“What this shows,” said Clarizza Fernandez from Media Access Australia’s digital technology team, “is that people with disability are at least equally, and sometimes more digitally savvy than nondisabled people.

“Disability also creates an increased need for technology and internet access, and the low rate of employment amongst this group in the UK is having a hugely negative impact.”

The report is intended better inform Ofcom in their regulatory duties under the Communications Act 2003. The BPS is the largest study of the British population.

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