Last Updated: Friday, January 21, 2011 | 6:07 PM ET
Adults who are disabled are much less likely to use the internet — deterred by a number of factors — which can create obstacles for them in an increasingly
digital world, a new U.S. study suggests.
Only 54 per cent of U.S. adults living with a disability go online, hindered by income, education and specific mental or physical limitations, according
to a study released Friday by the Pew Research Center.
The centre surveyed 3,000 Americans by phone and found that of those with disabilities, 46 per cent live with an annual household income of less than $30,000 US, while almost 60 per cent are 50 years old or older, creating financial and generational roadblocks to active web use among adults who are disabled.
Usage is significant lower among individuals with disabilities. (Pew Research)
The survey helps give insight into a potential extension of the Americans with Disabilities Act which could soon require certain websites to meet accessibility standards.
Similar laws and regulations were put in place last year by the Ontario provincial government to promote accessibility. The CBC reported at the time
that critics were voicing concerns that the adoption of new standards would be too gradual and the lack of enforcement would limit its effectiveness.
In November 2010, Donna Jodhan successfully sued the Canadian government
because a job application page was not accessible to the blind. The decision is now being appealed, with defence lawyers arguing that she could have applied by phone or in person.
The World Wide Web Consortium — an organization that sets web standards internationally — lists a number of requirements be met for sites to be categorized as fully accessible. One example is that all embedded images require “alt-descriptions” that can be read by software often used by people who are blind.
The survey was conducted in August and September 2010, and the results are accurate to within 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.