Feb. 5, 2002 --
The Harris poll results regarding Internet usage by people with disabilities do not conclusively show that people with disabilities have really gained on their non-disabled peers during the past few years, says Stephen Kaye, Ph.D. of the NIDRR-funded Disability Statistics Center, as we reported in the 1/22/02 E-Letter ("People with disabilities still lag on Internet usage," online at http://www.accessiblesociety.org/e_letters/eletter012202.htm)
What is important, he says, "is the very large gap that persists between people with and without disabilities in their access to the Internet. Even though a significant majority (56%) of adults without disabilities use the Internet at home, according the the Harris poll, most (62%) adults with disabilities don't use the Internet at home. It's likely that most of those people don't have computers at all, or don't have an Internet connection.
"Many people with disabilities have difficulty traveling outside the home, and, partly as a result, participation in society among people with disabilities is relatively low," says Kaye. "The Internet could provide opportunities for participation in society, especially for those people with disabilities who are socially isolated. Unfortunately, when people with disabilities lack access to the Internet, they cannot take advantage of these opportunities, which are much more readily available to people without disabilities. Especially relevant is the employment arena--jobs are posted on the Web and often require Internet skills; telecommuting has often been touted as a viable employment option for many people with disabilities, but it is largely unavailable for those without computers and Internet access."
The National Organization on Disability study we reported in the 1/22/2001 E-Letter was conducted by the Harris Poll; Kaye's study was done as part of his research with the NIDRR-funded Disability Statistics Center (a link to Dr. Kaye's report can be found at the Center for an Accessible Society website at http://www.accessiblesociety.org/topics/webaccess/digitaldivide.htm )
"Differences in the definitions of disability used in the two surveys prevent direct comparisons between them," says Kaye. "The Current Population Survey data that I used in my analysis of Internet use relies on a definition of disability based on work limitation. The population estimate is 21 million people age 15 and over." The Harris Poll, however, used questions similar to the questions used in the 2000 Census, which "capture a much broader population of approximately 40 million people age 5 and above," says Kaye.