Smartphone Use and Activities by People with Disabilities: 2015-2016 Survey

Date of Publication: 
2017 March

Access and use of mainstream wireless technology is essential to social and economic participation, which can be especially challenging to people with disabilities. Technology ownership rates are indicative of general access to these critical technologies. However, analysis of the activities of technology users can provide more detailed assessment of the nature and degree of technology access. This article presents findings from the Survey of User Needs (SUN) for Wireless Technologies, a large, multi-year survey on use of consumer wireless technology by people with disabilities, conducted by the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center for Wireless Technologies. Because of their versatility (connectivity, size, and portability) smartphones have come to occupy the center of many people’s digital experience. Data are presented on the ways people with disabilities use their smartphones, including voice calling, text messaging, emailing, using mobile apps, social networking, etc. Analysis of smartphone activities is provided on three areas: 1) adults with physical, cognitive, and sensory disabilities analyzed as a group; 2) the impact of key demographic variables – age, race/ethnicity, household income; 3) activities by disability type (blindness, deafness, difficulty speaking, etc.).


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