Digital Divides: Addressing the Access Problem for PWDs

As technology has advanced over the years, it has become more affordable and accessible, yet a digital divide between the privileged and unprivileged. This digital divide has tangible consequences for those who do not have access. According to a 2012 Pew Research Center Report entitled “Digital differences,” one in five American adults does not use the internet.[1] Among this US population of those who do not use the internet are senior citizens, Non-English language speakers, adults with less than a high school education, those living in households earning less than $30,000 per year, and persons with disabilities.[2] Around 27% of adults in the United States live with a disability. Of that population, only 54% of adult persons with disabilities use the internet consistently, as opposed to 84% of Americans in general[3] The reasons for this discrepancy and multifarious. Disability, compounded with other factors that determine internet use such as old age, lack of education, and lower income results in a fundamentally underserved population in regards to access to ICTs. If people with disabilities are not included in the rapidly growing digital world economy, they could be left behind.

 

How can we expand access to ICTs for persons with disabilities? While this question is one that we are still struggling with today, there are many innovators and organizations working to make the internet and other technologies more accessible to persons with disabilities. One key opportunity for advancement is in the design of the technology itself. For some people with disabilities, barriers can appear in the design of software used for employment and education. To address this issue, some companies and innovators have developed assistive technologies designed to aid disabled persons’ successful interactions with technologies. In addition to developing assistive technologies, advocates for inclusion have promoted the idea of “universal design” as a standard for all technology design. This concept is the idea of shifting the audience in mind when designing technologies from the “average user” to all people. In promoting this idea, advocates are urging technology developers to cease ignoring the needs of PWDs in favor of catering technology to the average consumer. For advocates of the concept, its is possible to address both of these populations simultaneously so that there are little to no barriers to access in technologies. While assistive technologies will not solve the “digital divide” as a whole for persons with disabilities, a change in mindset within the technology sector to keep universal accessibility central to the design of ICTs is change that is necessary for the expansion of inclusivity.

[1] Pew Research Center

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

Works Cited:

Zickuhr, Kathryn, and Aaron Smith. “Digital Differences.” Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech. N. p., 2012. Web. 6 Dec. 2017.

One thought on “Digital Divides: Addressing the Access Problem for PWDs

  1. I am glad you talked about the intersectionality of disability with other identities and challenges that act as an obstacle under current societal systems. How do you think these intersectionalities could contribute to the usefulness of your solutions or obstruct the effectiveness?

    Like

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