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Age doesn’t bridge the digital skills chasm, new research reveals

Americans with disabilities are using technology at a lower rate than those without a disability – including teenagers and younger citizens – research has found.

In the report, conducted by the United States-based Pew Research Center (which defines itself as a “nonpartisan fact tank”), those with disabilities in the two age groups measured (18-64 and over 65) showed similarly low levels of technology ownership, compared to those without disabilities.

67% of respondents with a disability aged 18-64 owned a desktop computer or laptop, compared to 84% of people without a disability – a difference of 17%. In the ‘over 65’ group, this difference figure was 16%.

Similarly, 70% of disabled respondents aged 18-64 owned a smartphone, compared to 87% of those without a disability – a difference of 17% again. For those aged over 65, the difference was 13%.

To give some context to these findings, the report explains that “the disabled population” is disproportionately comprised of seniors, an age group which has lower levels of digital adoption than the rest of the United States. However, despite the fact that younger disabled Americans are more likely to have home broadband and own digital devices, this group is still much less likely to use digital technology than those without disabilities.

The report also found that adults with a disability are less likely to own multiple digital devices that allow them to get online. The report states: “One-in-four disabled adults say they have high-speed internet at home, a smartphone, a desktop or laptop computer and a tablet, compared with 42% of those who report not having a disability.”

Another key finding from the report was that Americans with disabilities are almost three times more likely to say they never go online as those without a disability: 23% compared with 8%.

These results are based on two surveys conducted by Pew in 2016. At that time, figures from the Census Bureau claimed 16% of adults reported living with a disability – defined in the research as a “health problem, disability or handicap currently keeping you from participating fully in work, school, housework or other activities.” That number is now estimated to be 19%. As the Pew research points out, “It is important to note that there are various forms of disabilities, often ranging in severity, so this question is meant to be a broad look at disabled Americans.”

Read more about the report at the Pew Research Center website:
http://eab.li/5r .

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