Even in 2015, disabled people still disproportionately excluded from the internet

Source: Office for National Statistics
Source: Office for National Statistics (pdf)

Here at arbitrary constant we have previously been interested in internet usage statistics, particularly when it comes to disabled people. In June 2012 we reflected that half of all people who have never used the internet are disabled people. Where are we now?

The latest ONS internet usage statistics are out, and things look like they’ve only moderately moved in a positive direction for disabled people.

Overall, the number of people using the internet continues to increase: 85% of all adults had used the internet in the last three months (to March 2015), an increase of 1% since last quarter.

Some 11% of adults (5.9m people) have never used the internet (to March 2015). This is a reduction of 6% since March 2011, which remains encouraging.

Of these 5.9 million adults who had never used the internet, 3.0 million were aged 75 years and over. This represents 33% of people aged over 75. Similarly, 3.3 million disabled adults had never used the internet, which represents 27% of disabled adults.

In June 2012, 34% of people over 75 and 34% of disabled adults hadn’t used the internet. Thus, there has been a 4% and 7% increase in the number of people over 75 and disabled people using the internet respectively. Nevertheless, it remains the case that over half of all the people who have never used the internet are disabled people.

This is made clear in graph at the top of this post, which shows the proportion of non-internet users depending on whether they’re a disabled person or not over the last two years. Thus, whilst things are moving in the right direction, and consistently with, say, people aged over 75, disabled people are still disproportionately failing to reap the benefits of the internet, even in 2015.


Half of all people who have never used the internet are disabled people

The latest internet usage statistics have been published for up to June 2012.

(Aside: the Office for National Statistics really should be congratulated for publishing such useful stats and breakdowns each quarter.)

Overall, they show the total number of people using the internet is increasing: it’s 4% more than to March this year and 10% higher than this time last year. This is great news, and testament to the great work organisations like Go On UK  are doing.

The focus on who isn’t using the internet tends to be on older people. Though understandable, my focus is always on disabled people, and the figures show why:

  • To June 2012, there were 3.91 million disabled adults who had never used the internet
  • This 3.91m disabled adults represents around 34% of all disabled adults, i.e. 1 in 3 disabled adults has never used the internet
  • The equivalent figure for non-disabled people is around 10%, i.e. 1 in 10 non-disabled adults has never used the internet
  • Thus, disabled people are three times more likely never to have used the internet than non-disabled people
  • The 3.91m disabled adults who have never used the internet represents just under half of the 7.82m adults who had never used the internet, i.e. nearly 1 in 2 of all people who have never used the internet are disabled people.

By way of comparison: 38% of adults aged 65 years and over had never used the Internet, representing 2.12m people, i.e. 2 in 5.

Thus, in relative terms, older people and disabled people’s use of the internet is about the same (38% to 34% respectively). In absolute terms, there are around 1.8m more disabled people who have never used the internet than people over 65.

Useful to keep in mind, especially if we’re moving towards Digital by Default and online information directories in social care…

Countryside Mobility South West: a DPULO at its best

Towards the end of last year, I had the privilege of visiting Living Options Devon, one of the leading user-led organisations in the country, let alone the South West.

There are 3 things that struck me about why Living Options Devon is so successful in what it does:

  1. Working constructively in partnership with a range of different organisations, especially the local authority and other disability organisations in the area
  2. Solid delivery of the services and projects they deliver
  3. An entrepreneurial spirit that sees opportunities in every nook and cranny of their wide range of activities.

This is all brilliantly delivered by a number of fantastic staff (who kindly took some time to meet with me and share what they do) and brought together under the leadership of an excellent CEO, Diana Crump.

An example of the entrepreneurial spirit that Living Options has is the Countryside Mobility South West. This is a project created, managed and operated by Living Options Devon.

It aims to greatly increase the opportunities for mobility impaired, older people and their families to experience and enjoy the countryside of the South West through the provision of specialist mobility equipment. These include all-terrain “Tramper” scooters and accessible “Wheelyboats”.

As well as reflecting the sorts of things their members were asking for, Living Options Devon has also made the most of the fact it is a local, South West-based organisation. Wheelboats might not work too well in Luton!

Living Options has brought together a partnership of relevant organisations and secured funding to deliver this great project, turning it into an effective business. What’s more, they’re looking at how other partners across the country – especially user-led organisations – could set up a similar project, with support from them.

Below is relevant information about this opportunity, as well as details of the Countryside Mobility project and feedback from people who have used it.

It’s a reminder of what local user-led organisations can do and the opportunities they can make the most of.

Disabled people and gadgets: assistive technology in action

Earlier this month I wrote about how iPads (and touchpad devices more generally) have the potential to “change the lives of disabled people”.

The Oxford and Oldham ACE Centres have created a set of amazing films showing how assistive technology supports and enables disabled people to access things like education, work and leisure, and so achieve their potential.

Two of my favourite examples are below: Tiago and Darren

If you have a spare 30 minutes and have even a passing interest in tech, disability and the possibilities when those two things come together, I can’t recommend highly enough watching these videos.

iPads, accessibility and disability

Experience and evidence would suggest that when great leaps forward are made – in the form of transport, education or the internet, for example – disabled people often don’t have equal chance to benefit from the progress the leaps represent.

Insofar as generalisations across all impairment groups can be made (for example, for people with learning disabilities, hearing impairments or visual impairments), I’m inclined to think that iPads and apps* are, unfortunately, in much the same category of great leaps forward.

This article, though, suggests at least some room for optimism, even if it is from Mashable.

It suggests there are four main ways in which touch devices such as iPads are “changing the lives of disabled people”:

  1. As a communicator – touch devices are making text-to-speech or touch-to-speech technology more affordable
  2. As a therapeutic device – touch devices are both motivating and enabling disabled young people to develop or use their motor skills
  3. As an educational tool – touch devices can act as very useful supplements to (or replacements for) traditional education tools
  4. As a behaviour monitor – touch devices can quantify behavioural progress, either through recording notes / videos etc. and/or charting graphs. Similarly, apps can remind people to take medication.

There is undeniably a medical model focus in these benefits: they tend to focus on what “deficits” someone’s impairment represents and how these can be addressed. This is rather than highlighting, for example, how technology can be used to overcome the barriers that society puts up for disabled people (a great example of this is the Hills are Evil app, which enables people to identify inclines, raised kerbs and impassable streets).

Nevertheless, it’s good to see tech so widely known and appreciated as an iPad being seen in the context of what good it can provide for disabled people too.

*I’m not sure, though, if social media is in the same category. I’m not aware of any work that has been done on this particular topic – i.e. disabled people, social media and accessibility. If it has, please let me know.

#alphagov and accessibility

I’ve had a really interesting and challenging (in a good way) debate over alpha.gov.uk and its approach to accessibility (detailed in the post here).

I can’t fault the aims of alpha.gov.uk – it’s on the back of Martha Lane Fox’s recommendations concerning the government’s online services, and the URL of the project team’s opening post is the sort of intent I applaud.

And, in a way, I can’t fault the project team’s approach to accessibility. That they posted such a thoughtful post so early on in the project on the topic of accessibility is a Good Thing. That they recognise there are trade offs to be had in addressing the various issues involved is encouraging.

But, at this stage of this project, I think in saying what follows that they’ve came down on the wrong side concerning accessibility:

Making a half-hearted gesture towards accessibility (such as including text resizing or contrast options) or adding a badge to say we were certified, could have implied that we considered that box ticked, when we knew it to be untrue.

As it turns out, this was a view I shared with Dom Campbell, with me replaying the conversation he’d had 24 hours earlier. Public Strategist has kindly captured the conversations here.

I won’t replay the points of the conversation for and against the approach to accessibility, since they are already there to be seen.

What I wanted to get across in this post (apart from giving the topic a bit more air) is that Dom and I are taking one view on a fascinating, engaging and difficult topic. At this stage of the project, the team have taken a different view (and I really do strongly applaud @tomskitomski, @memespring et al. for being so open about their approach). It’s great, at least, that that debate is being had, and I look forward to it continuing.