Why Digital Exclusion is a Social Care Issue

  • Why Digital Exclusion is a Social Care Issue

    Source The Guardian 16/10/2012

    As our society becomes increasingly digitalised, figures reveal a large proportion of those not online have a disability or are elderly

    /images/blog/open_quote.jpgNext year the welfare system will undergo an overhaul as universal credit is introduced. The benefit, replacing six others, includes a new requirement to apply for benefits online. With millions of people having never used the internet, however, it raises the question of how those not online will manage.

    Universal credit is just one example of how, as our society becomes increasingly digitalised, those who are not online are at risk of becoming excluded. And it's not just a case of people opting not to be online.

    This year there were 3.91 million disabled adults who had never used the internet, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics. This is just under half of the 7.82 million adults who had never used the internet. Ian Lyons, from the Shaw Trust, which supports disabled and disadvantaged people live more independently, says many websites are not accessible for people with a disability.

    The trust, which encourages organisations to make their websites user friendly, has a team of around 20 people with disabilities who test the accessibility of websites. Mike Taylor, who is blind, is a member of the testing team. He said the problem is mainly with comparison sites, social media sites and online financial services, such as mortgage calculators, insurance quote tools and online banking.

    Screen readers can help people with visual impairments or who are blind use the internet, as they interpret what is being displayed on the screen. However, Taylor says security settings for online banking sites can prevent screen readers working:

    "The screen reader will speak what's displayed on the screen; that's all down to how a page is coded. With banking sites there is often additional software it suggests a user can download as an extra layer of detection. But it's so secure it stops the screen reader working."

    Taylor says links that do not say where they are going cause problems, as do lots of pop up adverts. Some websites are also badly designed for keyboard-only users, such as people with motor disabilities, making navigation difficult.

     Age UK, points out that 40% of people aged 65 and over use a computer once a week or more, compared with 17% in 2006. David Mortimer, head of digital inclusion, says for older people,

    "the biggest barrier is not seeing any benefit in it. There are also feelings that it is being forced on them by society." /images/blog/close_quotes.png

    Full report available here.

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