The telecoms regulator Ofcom says one in five disabled people can’t access the internet despite ever greater use of computers, smartphones and tablets.
As the digital world becomes ever more vital for people’s everyday lives, Ofcom’s first Access and Inclusion Report looked at whether digital services are delivering for vulnerable people in society, people such as the disabled, those on low incomes, the young and the elderly.
The report surveyed 16,000 non-disabled and 4,000 disabled consumers and concluded 79 per cent of disabled consumers did have access, up from 65 percent in 2014. But this still means one in five still can’t get online.
In better news, disabled people are using tablets and smartphones in ever increasing numbers. Access to both devices rose by 16 percent from 2014 to 2016.
Those with hearing and visual impairments were, according to Ofcom, “broadly comparable” with that of non-disabled consumers across most demographic groups.
But those consumers with mobility issues or multiple impairments reported “significantly lower” levels of access.
Ofcom also found that those with learning disabilities are most likely to find that their disability continues to impact their use of devices and communication services.
As well as surveying disabled consumers, Ofcom also looked at other vulnerable groups in our society. And while it found those on low or moderate incomes continue to use services comparable with those on higher incomes they are more likely to shop around.
It suggests that competition and price comparison websites like BroadbandDeals.co.uk are working for those looking to make savings.
While take-up is high, Ofcom did detect a worrying trend of younger people getting further into debt, while older people tended to have a lower engagement with the cyber world and were less likely to shop around.
As part of the government’s drive for greater digital inclusion, Ofcom’s report warned: “As telecoms, broadband and connected devices become ever more important, those who are digitally excluded become worse off.”
And as Elliot Dunster, from disability charity Scope, reflected: “Better access to modern technology could transform disabled people’s lives, by supporting them to live more independently, and to access services on equal terms.”