January 28, 2013
Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and BT tackle barriers preventing older people with disabilities benefiting from internet
Almost nine out of ten (87 per cent) blind and partially sighted older people in the UK have never used the internet, according to research carried out by RNIB in partnership
The report – Tackling Digital Exclusion – older blind and partially sighted people and the internet – reveals people over 65 with sight loss are increasingly at risk from technological alienation. The majority are not taking full advantage of the many benefits of being online, such as staying in touch with friends and family, managing finances and online shopping. Of those that said they had used the internet – more than half of them had not used it at all or had only used it once in the last six months.
The report reveals that the primary reason given for not being online was eyesight (82 per cent); suggesting that the majority of blind and partially sighted older people mistakenly believe sight loss precludes the use of the internet.
Other significant reasons given included, not knowing much about the internet (60 per cent), too difficult to use (52 per cent), not having the right skills (34 per cent) and not having the accessibility software required (32 per cent).
The findings were revealed at a joint RNIB and BT event, bringing together key organisations committed to helping older people access the internet. The discussion-led event will look at how these practical and psychological barriers can be tackled, with possible solutions, including local personalised and group training sessions, focused training on access technology, and specialised advice materials.
Richard Orme, head of Accessibility at RNIB, said: “Technology has long been used by blind and partially sighted people, often adopting new possibilities before sighted people. Yet despite the huge benefits the internet can offer, most older people with sight loss are simply not using it. The internet is now an integral part of modern life and there are many ways in which it can improve the lives of people with sight loss. It is therefore vital that we take action now so we can break down these barriers as soon as possible”.
Liz Williams, general manager, Sustainable Business at BT, said: “Older people with disabilities such as sight loss stand to gain so much from using the internet, yet this research tells us that, for the majority, getting online is a major challenge. BT has a long standing commitment to helping people to get online, and I am confident that by working with RNIB and other organisations, we can make important inroads into helping older people use and benefit from the internet.”
Notes to Editors
There are currently almost two million people in the UK living with sight loss and this figure is set to increase dramatically over the next decade. It is predicted that by 2050 the number of people with sight loss in the UK will double to nearly four million. (Source: Access Economics, 2009)
People with disabilities also represent over half of those who have never used the internet (ONS 2011).
The nationwide study used a mixed methods approach combining both quantitative and qualitative techniques (Johnson and Onwuegbuzie, 2004).
A telephone survey of 150 blind and 150 partially sighted people over the age of 65 years who were non-internet users was undertaken. Respondents were asked about their main reasons for not being online and their propensity to engage in the future. A random sample was drawn from RNIB’s contacts database of around 280,000 people. Interviews took place during October 2011 and were conducted by social firm Viewpoint which employs researchers who themselves are blind or partially sighted. To obtain individual accounts and perceptions of the internet, seven discussion groups and 70 face-to-face interviews with older blind and partially sighted people were held across the UK. In order to identify the factors that enable older people with sight loss to get online the in-depth interviews also included individuals who were online. In-depth telephone interviews with six professionals who provide IT support and training to people with sight loss were conducted to obtain their views on the barriers encountered and any solutions identified.
Every day around 100 people in the UK start to lose their sight. There are around 2 million people in the UK with sight problems. RNIB is the leading charity working in the UK offering practical support, advice and information for anyone with sight difficulties. If you, or someone you know, has a sight problem RNIB can help. Call the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999 or visit www.rnib.org.