Women with disability disadvantaged in ICT

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Thursday, 11 April 2013 13:54pm

The digital divide experienced by people with disability is wider for women, new research finds. A report released by Women with Disabilities Victoria and the Self Advocacy Research Unit has found that the perception of women with disabilities being less capable of operating computers perpetuates disadvantage.

Access to information communications technology (ICT) including computers, mobile devices, social media and websites is becoming increasingly vital for participation in society. The research identifies a vicious cycle of disadvantage. Women with disability are more likely to face poverty, unemployment and under-education than their male counterparts. This means they are less likely to have access to ICT which, in turn, means they are less likely to overcome socioeconomic barriers.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (2009) found that “When looking at labour force participation, women with disabilities are particularly affected, with a participation rate of 49% - well below the 60% participation rate of males with disabilities and the 77% participation rate of females without disabilities.”

The report also discusses how the perception of women being generally less capable with ICT tends to make women reluctant to make a start with new technology. There is also a perception amongst women with disability that ICT is not relevant to them.

The research involved a series of workshops with women with disabilities, particularly those who were socially isolated. In these, women were given the opportunity to overcome their anxiety and try technologies for the first time. Needless to say, this had a positive result for participants.

The report states “Women with disabilities may need encouragement to see the personal benefits to technology access, and to believe that the potential benefits are worth the frustration and effort needed to learn and engage with ICT” (page 17).

The Your Say, Your Rights report can be downloaded from the Women with Disabilities Victoria homepage.

Our sociABILITY project enables women and men with disabilities to get started with social media, including through the use of computers and assistive technologies for the first time.

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