Households with disabilities make more use of the Internet

While Minnesota households with developmental disabilities are as likely to have computers and broadband connections as the general public, these […]

While Minnesota households with developmental disabilities are as likely to have computers and broadband connections as the general public, these individuals are more than three times as likely to use them to communicate with elected officials. Tech-savvy households with developmentally disabled members are also more likely to use technology to increase their awareness of and involvement in local communities, according to a recent study.

The survey, conducted for the Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities by MarketResponse International, also found that Minnesota households that included people with disabilities were more likely than the general population to access government Web sites, to spend more time using technology for entertainment and to use Internet phone and video communications.

[Male in wheelchair]: I think I'll ask my legislators: What is our governor's health care coverage like? I'll bet it's PAWLENTY good. [Mother] You tell 'em, son!

Cartoon by Scott Adams

When the individual with developmental disabilities was queried rather than members of the household, substantially more respondents said they used technology to express themselves and their own creativity than did members of the general population. Similarly, people with developmental disabilities were more likely to believe that technology enhances their inclusion in the community.

There was no significant difference reported on one demographic. As with the general public, said Tom Pearson, managing director of Market-Response International, “younger people are more comfortable using technology and computer services.” The survey results are seen as significant. “These findings strongly indicate that personal access to technology can play an important role in allowing people with disabilities to be participating members of the community,” said Shamus O’Meara, chair of the Mn-CDD. “This participation helps affirm their rights as citizens and free people.”

Total spending on technology products, including computers, cell phones, smart mobile and GPS devices and video gaming systems, was also higher among Minnesota households that included members with developmental disabilities.

Some 29 percent of these households spent from $1,000 to $2,999 in this area during 2008, as compared to 16 percent of the general population spending at that level.

Pearson said in many ways households that include people with developmental disabilities track the general population until it comes to the questions regarding self-expression and participation in public policy discussions. “For people with developmental disabilities, technology appears to be a more important means for communicating with public officials,” he said. MarketResponse International reported that a total of 382 households participated in the survey, which was conducted earlier this year.

The research indicated that only 14 percent of Minnesota households do not have a computer. A total of 13 percent of the households surveyed have dial up Internet service, while 66 percent have broadband Internet access.

In evaluating the survey results, significant differences are found when comparing households in urban and rural areas. Only 34 percent of residents of rural areas report owning a computer with broadband Internet access. Almost twice as many rural residents, some 27 percent, do not own a computer at all, as opposed to 14 percent of Minnesota households overall without a computer.

The Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities, a division of the Minnesota Department of Administration, works to assure that all people with developmental disabilities and their families receive the support they need for them to achieve greater independence and productivity, self-determination, and integration and inclusion.

MarketResponse International is a Minneapolis opinion research organization with substantial experience in qualitative and quantitative research studies in a range of industries, including consumer and business products and services, health care, financial services and automotive, for clients in the U.S. and internationally.

Double your impact - support quality journalism - give nonprofit, give now