Lack of awareness stopping disabled people using the internet

Blind user using the internetDisabled internet users have spoken out after a recent report claimed that half of people who have stopped going online have a disability.

Disabled internet users have questioned the results of a recent report that claimed that half of people who have stopped going online have a disability. The Office of National Statistics’ (ONS) Internet Users 2015 report said that 48% of ‘lapsed’ internet users – people who had not been online in the last three months – identified themselves as disabled.

That came in spite of the fact that people with a disability make up just 17% of the UK population. Disabled web users told Cable.co.uk extrenal websitethat they question the report’s results.

Rebecca Morgan, senior accessibility analyst at the Digital Accessibility Centre (DAC), said: At the end of the article it says the Office of National Statistics uses the term disabled to refer to respondents who self-assess that they have a disability in line with the Equality Act. The figure represents the amount of people that identified themselves as being disabled. I know some people that have a disability that do not class themselves as being disabled.

Ms Morgan, who has limited mobility and uses keyboard only/voice activation software, said that while accessibility may play a part in disabled people moving away from internet use, it was probably not the main reason. The issue is probably more about access to information and resources.

There are so many people out there with disabilities that do not know what is out there to help them. As a result they are either not attempting to use the internet or struggling to use a set-up that doesn’t work for them then giving up. Some equipment is very expensive, and people may not be able to afford what they need.

Jaime Purvis, DAC screen reader team leader, agreed that the issue was more about awareness than accessibility. We don’t see adverts for JAWS, TalkBack or VoiceOver (assistive technology) even though PCs and smartphones are advertised on practically an hourly basis.

Mr Purvis, who is blind and uses screen reader technology, said Although accessibility may not be seen as important to some designers, they might think differently if they saw the technology in use, or being advertised, which would in turn boost awareness.

Mike Jones, DAC screen reader analyst, said Despite accessibility technology “rocketing forward” in the last decade, society is still largely unaware of disabled people’s needs.

He told Cable.co.uk: As a blind user it is surprising how many of the mainstream websites are to some extent inaccessible, with many websites being extremely difficult to navigate.

Mr Jones, one of 18 staff with disabilities in the 22-member team at the not-for-profit social enterprise, said If a website is inaccessible, internet users will simply stop trying to get onto it.

Telecoms accessibility expert Jonathan Kaye, who is quadriplegic, also questioned the ONS figures. Mr Kaye, a former member of the Ofcom Advisory Committee on Older & Disabled People, and a member of the accessibility committee of the Digital Television Group, said Although the picture presented by the report is worrying, the reality could be more complicated. I absolutely question the figures put out by the Office of National Statistics because I think that some people will not understand [that] when you’re using a mobile phone, you’re probably using the internet. I’m not so worried about the fact that people are leaving the internet behind. What I’m worried about is leaving behind the potential to empower lives and to enable independent living.

Cable.co.uk extrenal website previously reported how telecoms regulator Ofcom delayed changes to stricter rules about sign language programming on TV, while giving broadcasters more time to hit accessibility spending targets.