Bring Broadband to the Billion with Disability

An analysis in Broadband Expanded, a project of New York Law School, urges policy-makers to make broadband and its devices and services accessible to people with disabilities — especially those who can't use standard devices.

The need worldwide is pressing. A recent report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank states that a billion of the world's people are living with disabilities. And that, "New research shows that almost one-fifth of the estimated global total of persons living with disabilities, or between 110-190 million, encounter significant difficulties." What is surprising is that

The report finds people with disabilities "continue to face discrimination, are unable to obtain essential services, and struggle to find gainful employment," even within the developed world. Overall they're:

  • Three times as likely to be denied health care; and,
  • Twice as likely to incur catastrophic health care costs as children as less likely to start or stay in school.

While governments and NGOs are working to ease barriers for persons with disabilities, application of disability-specific broadband will increase access to the mainstream. Disability components are being built into public programs, such as the recently announced "Eliminate the Digital Divide" grant to libraries in Illinois. The grants aim at "populations that typically would not otherwise have opportunities to use computer and telecommunications technologies," and in this case specifically includes persons with disabilities.

As Broadband Expanded concludes:

"The WHO and World Bank's report on people with disabilities is a reminder that certain communities remain at risk of being left behind in our national — and global — transition to a digital society built upon broadband connections and other cutting-edge tools."

Read more about the benefits of broadband for people with disabilities.

Global Focus: Using Broadband to Empower People with Disabilities Around the World (Broadband Expanded)

New world report shows more than 1 billion people with disabilities face substantial barriers in their daily lives (WHO)

Illinois: Jesse White announces "Eliminate the Digital Divide" grants, people with disabilities : June 2011 (Ability Chicago Info Blog

Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity: Technology Grants & Programs

Enabling People with Disabilities Fact Sheet (Speed Matters)