Yesterday an interesting report was published by Ofcom (“Disabled consumers’ use of communications services”) looking at the take-up and use of the internet by disabled adults. It provides much needed insight into the similarities – and the differences – between those who are offline and have a disability, and those who don’t.
Late yesterday I got a phone call asking me to appear on this morning’s edition (Friday 2 October) of BBC Breakfast, to talk about the barriers that disabled people face when getting online and to highlight the consequential exclusion to savings, discounts, and the convenience of internet services.
The report suggests that demographic differences offer only a partial explanation for differing levels of communication device and service take-up. Other factors, perhaps related to the disability itself, may affect ownership and use of key communication services such as the internet.
Over three million people with disability do not use the internet, and only 55% of disabled people have internet access compared to 83% of non-disabled people.
Some of the barriers that disabled people face are the same as those of non-disabled, such as lack of skills or affordability. We also know that some disabilities occur due to ageing, and older people are more likely to lack basic digital skills than younger people. People on low income are also more likely to be non-users of the internet, and disabled people are more likely to be unemployed than non-disabled people. This all makes it hard to discover which demographics are the causal link to being offline. However, the report does show that when all other demographics are removed, there is still a higher probability for a disabled person to lack basic digital skills. Accessibility is a barrier for some, and the report also highlights that people with disabilities are more likely to live alone and that also leads to less shared internet access.
Tinder Foundation’s network of community partners are working hard to make sure everyone has an equal chance to get online, and we’ve created a range of resources and support to help our local partners do more to help disabled people – and to make sure we can really make an impact on these figures.
Lian Pate and the team at Banbury SWITCH in Accrington are one of the centres doing just this, and they were kind enough to step up at the last minute and let the BBC Breakfast crew film at their centre. It was great to see their story on prime-time morning TV, which really helped illustrate the real impact that the internet can have on making disabled people’s lives easier – so I’d like to say a big thank you to them for all their help last night, and to all of our local partners for the fantastic work they do every day.
And it was nice to be on the telly to talk about the urgency to create a more equal nation, even though I had to get up super early.