Younger disabled people enjoying the benefits of being online

25 September 2013

Younger disabled people are taking advantage of the benefits of being online, new Ofcom research reveals.

Ofcom has today published its most comprehensive study into disabled consumers’ use of communications services.

The research shows that among the youngest age group (15-34), levels of internet access are broadly comparable, regardless of whether people have a disability or not (90% compared with 93%). This increases to 94% for disabled people and 97% for non-disabled people among the more affluent in this age group.

However, for older (65+) less affluent disabled people, internet access levels are at their lowest (23%) which is significantly lower than among non-disabled people of the same age and socio-economic group (37%).

Across all age groups, internet ownership is 55% for disabled consumers, compared with 83% for non-disabled consumers. This can partly be explained by their older profile as half of disabled people are aged 65+.

The report also shows that mobile phone access is broadly comparable between disabled and non-disabled adults across most age groups.

Ninety-two per cent of disabled people aged 15-34 have a mobile phone compared to 87% among non-disabled adults in this age group. Two-thirds of disabled people aged 75+ have a mobile phone but this is lower than among non-disabled people of the same age (72%).

Variations by disability

There are also variations by type of disability. Internet access is highest among people with hearing (64%) and visual impairments (62%) but lowest among people with mobility impairments (53%) or multiple impairments (51%). Of all disability groups, people with mobility or multiple impairments are the oldest, most likely to live alone, and have a lower household income.

The majority of disabled internet users are using the internet daily or more often (73%), although this is lower than non-disabled internet users (85%).

People with a visual impairment go online most frequently, with 81% of internet users accessing the internet at least once a day.

They also using the internet more for social networking (53% compared with 45% for the disabled average*) and job searches (25% compared with 16% disabled average and 22% non-disabled average).

This reflects the fact that there are more young people with visual impairments than other types of disability.

Disabled people in employment

Similarly, access to most communications services is equal to or higher among disabled people in employment compared to the average for non-disabled people. Mobile (91%), PC ownership (86%) and internet access (87%) are all higher among disabled people in employment compared to the non-disabled average (87%, 79% and 83%).



*Disabled average means the average ownership levels across all people with any type of disability.

  1. The report considers the age, socio-economic group and employment status of people with different types of disability when comparing their access to communications services such as landlines, mobiles, PCs, internet access and pay TV ownership. It shows that the type of disability may affect differences in ownership and usage.
  2. The report supports Ofcom’s duty to have regard to the interests of disabled consumers. It provides an in depth look at the use of communications services among the 12 million people with a limiting long-term illness, impairment or disability in the UK.
  3. Some 4,095 disabled people and 17,412 non-disabled people were surveyed.
  4. Ofcom’s guide for consumers with disabilities can be found on the Ofcom website.
  5. Ofcom publishes this report to support its regulatory goal to research markets constantly and to remain at the forefront of technological understanding. Under Section 3 (4)(i) of the Communications Act 2003, Ofcom must also have regard to the interest of disabled consumers within the United Kingdom.