ESZTER HARGITTAI'S RESEARCH
The Disability Divide in Internet Access and Use
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by Kerry Dobransky and Eszter Hargittai
2006. Information, Communnication and Society. 9(3):313-334.
The increasing spread of the Internet holds much potential for enhancing
opportunities for people with disabilities. However, scarce evidence
exists to suggest that people with disabilities are, in fact,
participating in these new developments. Will the spread of information
technologies (IT) increase equality by offering opportunities for people
with disabilities? Or will a growing reliance on IT lead to more
inequality by leaving behind certain portions of the population including
people with disabilities? In this paper, we draw on nationally
representative data about Americans' Internet uses to (1) identify the
extent to which people with disabilities are embracing use of the
Internet; (2) how their use of the Internet compares to the Internet uses
of the rest of the population; (3) how having a disability relates to and
interacts with other social statuses (e.g. socio-economic status, age,
gender) with regard to Internet use; and (4) what explains these trends.
We draw on representative data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics
and the Census of the United States to answer these questions. We find
that people with disabilities are less likely to live in households with
computers, are less likely to use computers and are less likely to be
online. However, once we control for socio-economic background, we find
that people with hearing disabilities and those who have limited walking
ability are not less likely to be Internet users. Our research enables a
deeper understanding of both the use of the Internet by people with
disabilities and the spread of new IT more generally.
II. The Benefits and Barriers of Internet Use by
People with Disabilities
III. Existing Empirical Investigations
IV. Research Questions
V. Data and Methodology
VI. Internet Access and Use at Home
VII. Explaining Differences in Internet Use
VIII. Types of Internet Uses
IX. Discussion and Conclusion
The authors would like to thank Jennifer Humensky for help with data
management. Jeremy Freese and Peter Miller provided helpful suggestions.
Hargittai acknowledges the support of the Northwestern University
Communication Studies Department Research Fund.
This is a pre-print version of the article to appear in
Information, Communication and Society.
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