Media Literacy Audit: Report on media literacy of disabled people

03 April 2006

Executive Summary

The promotion of media literacy is a new responsibility placed on Ofcom arising from Section 11 of the Communications Act 2003.

In addition, Section 3(4)(i) of the Communications Act requires Ofcom, in performing its general duties “to have regard to the needs... of persons with disabilities” as it deems relevant in the circumstances. To this end, as part of the Media Literacy Audit, it was important to ensure that the views and media habits of disabled people were fully represented.

Ofcom’s definition of media literacy, developed after formal consultation with stakeholders, is ‘the ability to access, understand and create communications in a variety of contexts’. Media literacy gives people the confidence and knowledge to get the most out of the many media platforms that now exist.

Ofcom has carried out an audit of media literacy across the UK and in March 2006 published its first report, which details the audit’s findings across all UK adults. That report, Ofcom’s Media Literacy Audit: report on adult media literacy, is available at Media Literacy.

This supplementary report focuses on disabled adults aged under 65, defined as any type of self-reported impairment that ‘limits your daily activities or the work you can do’.

The reason for the focus on adults aged under 65 in this report is to disentangle the strong relationship that exists between age and disability. A separate supplementary report, published alongside this report, details the findings for older people aged 65 and over and includes analysis of older disabled people’s media literacy.

The purpose of this report on disabled people is to provide stakeholders with an array of information about the opinions and habits of those people in relation to media literacy. We recognise that disabled people are a diverse group and so we have examined, where possible, a range of sub-groups in this report: those with visual impairment, those with hearing impairment, those with mobility impairment, those aged under 45 and those aged 45-64.

But it is important to stress from the outset that this report uses a wide definition of disability, similar to that of the Disability Rights Commission and the Disability Discrimination Act (-1-) . Our definition includes any kinds of impairment that are limiting to daily life and work. In this report we cannot categorise separately these disabilities by level of severity. Rather, our analysis is top-line, examining the extent to which the various elements of media literacy are differently achieved by those with impairment.

Its purpose is to act as a first stage, to provide Ofcom and its stakeholders with an overall view, supplemented by more detail where possible, in order to encourage debate and further examination.

The audit as a whole looks at how UK adults and children access, understand and create communications, with Ofcom’s particular focus being on electronic communications. In this context, our definition of access is much wider than availability or take-up of the platforms. Rather, it focuses upon interest, awareness, usage and competence relating to each platform. Understanding relates to how content (such as television and radio programmes, internet websites, or mobile video and text services) is created, funded and regulated.

Some of the elements of this audit - such as attitudes towards the provision of news, or knowledge of content regulation – apply to traditional analogue television and radio as well as their newer digital counterparts. But for the most part, this audit focuses on the four main digital media platforms – not only digital television and digital radio, but also the internet and mobile phones - as these are the ones where there is most divergence between different groups within the UK in terms of understanding, take-up and usage.

Our main findings are:

Across all platforms

  • Some 82% of disabled people aged under 65 in our survey have a mobile phone, 65% have digital TV, 50% have home access to the internet and 46% say they have access to digital radio services. These levels of ownership are similar to all UK adults under 65, with the exception of mobile phones (90% all adults under 65) and the internet (62%). Digital television is more likely to be owned by those with mobility impairments, and least likely to be owned by those with visual impairments. Those with visual impairments are slightly more likely to have internet access at home and have a mobile phone.
  • In comparison to all UK adults under 65, disabled people aged under 65 watch more TV, listen to more radio, and use the internet and mobile phones to a similar extent.
  • Concerns about TV content are higher amongst disabled people aged under 65 than amongst all UK adults under 65, with concerns about radio content, the internet and mobile phones at around the same level. Concerns appear to be slightly greater for those with mobility impairments than those with sensory impairments.

Television

  • Disabled people aged under 65 watch on average 25.5 hours of television per week, compared to 20.1 hours of TV viewing per week on average for all UK adults under 65. This rises to 28.6 hours for those with mobility impairments.
  • Around three quarters of disabled people aged under 65 say they can use Teletext/Ceefax, and three in five say they can set up a recording on the VCR or use the digital TV interactive button. These figures are lower than for all UK adults under 65.
  • Knowledge of TV regulation, channel funding and the watershed are at very similar levels for disabled people aged under 65 and all UK adults under 65, at around 80%. People with hearing impairments appear to be more knowledgeable about most of these elements.
  • Three in five (59%) disabled people aged under 65 say they have any concerns ‘about what is on TV’; considerably higher than amongst all adults (43%). Concern appears to increase with age, and those with mobility impairments appear to be more concerned than those with sensory impairments.
  • Similar numbers (two in five) of disabled people and all UK adults under 65 say they have interacted with TV using either their mobile, the interactive button on their remote control, or the internet.

Radio

  • Disabled people (46%) are about as likely as all UK adults under 65 (48%) to say they have access to digital radio services.
  • Disabled people aged under 65 say they listen to radio (both digital and analogue) for a total of 17.7 hours per week, compared to 15.2 hours for all UK adults as a whole. People with visual impairments are more likely to listen most per week, compared to those with hearing or mobility impairments. They are also more likely to be interested in the features of digital radio.
  • A majority of disabled adults aged under 65 are aware that radio is regulated and are aware of how BBC radio stations are mainly funded, with fewer than half aware of how commercial radio stations are mainly funded. These levels are broadly similar to those for all UK adults under 65. People with hearing impairments appear more likely to be aware.
  • One in seven (14%) disabled adults aged under 65 says they have any concerns ‘about what is on radio’. This measure is higher than that for all UK adults under 65 (10%).

Internet

  • Amongst disabled internet users aged under 65, self-reported weekly usage levels are similar to those for all UK adults under 65 (10.7 compared to 10.4 hours). Disabled people aged under 45 use the internet more frequently, for 13.8 hours per week.
  • Disabled adults aged under 65 make a more narrow use of the internet, with fewer users using the internet for communication, leisure and transactions than all UK adults users under 65.
  • Over three quarters of disabled internet users under 65 say they can use email with confidence to contact friends and family, and nearly three quarters say they can visit websites to find out the latest news. Levels of competence for other internet tasks are lower, and overall, are lower than for all UK adults users under 65.
  • Just under half of disabled people aged under 65 (48%) know how the BBC website is mainly funded; matching the finding for all UK adults under 65 (49%). Around one quarter (23%) know the main way of funding for search engine websites, slightly lower than for all UK adults (28%).
  • Just under half (48%) of all disabled people under 65 with the internet at home say they are interested in, and confident about, blocking viruses/spam, which is lower than for all UK adults with the internet at home (58%).
  • Three-fifths of disabled adults aged under 65 say they have any concerns about the internet (61%); a similar figure to all UK adults under 65. Disabled adults (and all UK adults) are mostly concerned by content.

Mobile phones

  • Mobile phone ownership among disabled people is somewhat lower (82%) than for all UK adults under 65 (90%), with people with hearing impairments less likely to own than people with either visual or mobility impairments.
  • Disabled people aged under 65 make and send similar levels of weekly calls and texts compared to all UK adults under 65.
  • The top three weekly uses made by disabled people aged under 65 match those for all UK adult users, with calls coming first (81%), texts second (70%), and looking back at stored text messages third (26%).
  • Over three-quarters of disabled people aged under 65 say they can do with confidence a variety of tasks relating to mobile phones, for example storing a new contact (88%); changing the ring-tone (79%); and listening back to voicemail messages (78%).
  • Some 44% of disabled people aged under 65 say they have any concerns about mobile phones. Concern is mostly linked to risks to health.

Sources of news

  • Disabled people aged under 65 use broadly similar sources of news as all UK adults, with just under two-thirds using TV the most (64%); 17% nominating newspapers, and 13% the radio. There are no significant differences by sub-group.
  • Disabled people aged under 65 are more likely to use just one source for news, at 28% compared to 22% of all adults under 65.
  • Overall, levels of trust and distrust in TV and radio amongst all adults and disabled people aged under 65 are very similar, at around three-quarters of the maximum potential. Levels of trust for news websites and newspapers are lower than for TV and radio, and slightly lower amongst disabled people, especially those aged 45-64.

Attitudes and preferences

  • Some 44% of disabled people aged under 65 say they would miss watching television the most, similar to all UK adults under 65 (42%). Listening to music is next for disabled people, with 17% saying they would miss it most (compared to 14% for all UK adults). Those with visual impairments are more likely to miss listening to radio and to music than those with mobility or hearing impairments.
  • One third of disabled people aged under 65 (34%) say they are interested in learning more about digital technologies (compared to a similar figure for all UK adults under 65 of 37%). One in five (18%) is interested in learning about using the internet and one in ten (11%) about creating a website. Interest beyond these media topics is low.
  • One quarter of disabled adults aged under 65 (25%) have experience of learning about any of these media topics (again dominated by using the internet (18%) and creating a website (8%)), similar to UK adults overall (at 26% with any experience).
  • Experience of learning is higher for disabled people aged under 45, at 33% compared to 19% of those aged 45-64. Those with mobility impairments are the least likely to have experience of learning about these media topics (9%), and are also less likely to be interested in learning (22%).

Footnotes:

1.- The definition of disability used by the Disability Rights Commission is people who have ‘a disability or a long-term health condition that has an impact on their day to day lives’ ( DRC website www.drc.org.uk). According to the DRC, one-fifth of people of working age can be defined as disabled. This figure reflects the incidence of disabled people in our overall sample.

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