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4429.0 - Profiles of Disability, Australia, 2009  
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COMPUTER AND INTERNET USE BY PEOPLE WITH A DISABILITY

WHY ARE COMPUTERS IMPORTANT FOR PEOPLE WITH A DISABILITY?

“Computer technology and the Internet have a tremendous potential to broaden the lives and increase the independence of people with disabilities" (Endnote 1).


ARE PEOPLE WITH A DISABILITY USING COMPUTERS AND THE INTERNET?

In the Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC) 2009, 70% of people with a disability had access to a computer at home; this was lower than the 78% recorded for the Australian population in 2008-09 (Endnote 2). Access to the internet was also lower for people with a disability (61%) than for the Australian population (72%).

Access to computer technology however, does not necessarily equate to actual use. In 2009, only 57% of people with a disability aged 15 years and over reported having actually used a computer in the 12 months prior to interview and 53% had used the internet in the same time frame.

Most people (90%) who had used the computer, had also used the internet. Therefore this article will focus on patterns of internet use.


DATA SOURCES

Data on people with a disability in this article is sourced from the Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers, (SDAC) 2003 and 2009. Data on the total Australian population is sourced from Household Use of Information Technology (cat. no. 8146.0) for the years 2002-2003 and 2008-2009.


AGE

In 2009, age was related to people's use of the internet (Graph 1) with 90% of people with a disability aged 15-24 years reporting having used the internet in the last 12 months compared to 25% of those aged 65 years or more. This was similar to the overall Australian population, where people aged 15-24 years reported the highest rates (92%) of accessing the internet compared to 31% of those aged 65 years and over (Endnote 2).

Graph - Proportion of people with disability who used the internet in the last 12 months, by age

SEVERITY OF DISABILITY

Internet use varied by severity of disability. Amongst all age groups, people with profound core-activity limitation reported lower levels of internet use than those with less severe restrictions (Graph 2). For example, 37% of people with profound core-activity limitation aged 35-64 years had used the internet in the last 12 months compared to 66% of those with a mild core-activity limitation.

Graph - Proportion of people with disability who used the internet in the last 12 months, by disability status and age

CHANGES IN COMPUTER ACCESS AND INTERNET USE SINCE 2003

In 2003, 56% of people with a disability aged 15 years or more had access to a computer at home. By 2009, this had risen to 70%.

In 2003, 36% of people with a disability aged 15 years or more had used the internet in the last 12 months compared to 53% of the Australian population. By 2009, this had risen to 53% for people with a disability and 74% for the Australian population as a whole (Endnotes 2 and 3).


WHAT ARE PEOPLE WITH DISABILITY USING THE INTERNET FOR?

Most people with disability used the internet for private reasons (97%) or for work and study purposes (34% and 28% respectively - people could nominate multiple uses, so a person might appear in several categories simultaneously). This was similar to the overall Australian population of whom 96% used the internet for private reasons, followed by 46% for work purposes and 39% for education purposes (Endnote 2).

A key target of the National Disability Agreement is that people with disability ‘achieve social inclusion’ (Endnote 4). Social interactions that take place between friends and family using phones and the internet are a crucial aspect of this inclusion in today’s technological world.

In 2009, 1.3 million people with disability aged 15 years or more (36% of all people with disability aged 15 years and over) had internet contact with family and friends outside of the home in the last 3 months. In general, younger people were more likely to have had this contact than older people (Graph 3).

People with profound core-activity limitation were less likely to be using the internet than those with milder disability status. However, younger people were more likely to have had internet contact with family and friends regardless of the severity of their disability. For example, 32% of people aged 15-34 years with profound core-activity limitation had used the internet in the last 3 months to contact family and friends outside of the home compared to 7% of those aged 65 years and over. This pattern was observed across all levels of disability severity.


Graph - Proportion of people who contacted (in the last 3 months) family and friends (not living in the same household) via the internet, by disability status and age



FREQUENCY OF CONTACT WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS VIA THE INTERNET

Younger people used the internet to contact family and friends more frequently than older people. Of those aged 15-34 years with disability who had contacted family and fiends, 47% were using the internet several times a day compared to 26% of those aged 35-59 years and 25% of those aged 65 years and above (Graph 4). This was in keeping with the general population aged 15-24 years who were more likely than any other age group to have used the internet for social networking and gaming (Endnote 2).

Graph - frequency of contact with family and friends via the internet



1. Kaye, H.S. (2000). Computer and Internet Use Among People with Disabilities. 'Disability Statistics Report (13)'. Washington DC: U.S. Department of Education, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, accessed 31 Jan 2012 <http://www.dsc.ucsf.edu/pdf/report13.pdf>

2. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2008-2009, 'Household Use of Information Technology', Australia, cat. no. 8146.0, Australia
3. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2002-2003, 'Household Use of Information Technology, Australia', cat. no. 8146.0, Australia


4. Council of Australian Governments, 2009, National Disability Agreement, Standing Council on Federal Financial Relations, COAG, accessed 28 March 2012, http://www.federalfinancialrelations.gov.au/content/national_agreements/disabilty/Disability_Agreement.pdf

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