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Disabled least likely to use Internet, says study

Almost three quarters of Americans who report having a disability also do not use the Internet, says a new study from The Pew Internet & American Life Project. Over a quarter of these respondents say their disabilities make it difficult or imposible to go online. "Currently, the disabled are less connected than many other groups of Americans," says the report.

"Just 38 percent of disabled Americans use the Internet," says the study. "This compares to the 58 percent of all Americans who use the Internet.

Some 18 percent of survey respondents said they had disabilities -- "a percentage that is very close to the 20 percent of Americans that the U.S. Census Bureau reports with disabilities," says the study.

"Researchers Colin Keane and Joel Macht of the Neil Squire Foundation have noted that many of the disabled lack access to adaptive technologies that would help them use computers and retrieve information from Web sites. At times, it is physically hard for the disabled to gain access to wired rooms and buildings. Other times, computer work stations at public sites cannot be adjusted or lack appropriate desks, chairs, software or adaptive hardware to make the computer and Internet more usable. In addition, the disabled as a group are poorer than other Americans and have a hard time affording the extra expense of adaptive technology. "

"It is important to note that respondents in our survey self-defined themselves as disabled or not," say the researchers. "They were asked if they had any disability, handicap, or chronic disease kept them from participating fully in work, school, housework, or other activities, and they then answered yes or no. In addition, respondents who said they were disabled were also allowed to self-define their disability as one that impairs the use of the Internet or one that does not.

"Thus, it is likely that some individuals (especially those who have little knowledge of the Internet and computers) believe their disability impairs Internet use when in fact it does not."

"There are social and psychological explanations why some Americans do not use the Internet," says the study's authors. "A personŐs sense of personal empowerment can make a difference in her decision to go online or not. Those who feel less in control of their lives are less likely to go online."

Read The Ever-Shifting Internet Population: A new look at Internet access and the digital divide
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The Pew Internet & American Life Project is a non-profit initiative of the Pew Research Center for People and the Press.






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